March 11, 2002 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS Vol. XLIV No. 49


The House met at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I stand on a point of privilege.

The point of privilege that I wish to address has to do with the very serious comments made by the hon. the Leader of the Opposition in questioning the impartially of Your Honour in early January in The Telegram, on January 3, 2002. I just want to remind hon. members that the Speaker represents the power, the authority, and the dignity of this House, and any attack on the Speaker attacks all members of the House. All of our rights and privileges had been eroded.

Mr. Speaker, it is the responsibility of all members to ensure that the confidence of the Chair is maintained because it is the confidence of the Chair which keeps Parliament going. Without that confidence, Parliament would be on the brink. It would be on a slippery slope. These allegations are very serious, probably the most serious thing that has happened in terms of contempt of Parliament since I have been a member of this House.

I understand that the Leader of the Opposition has spoken to His Honour and that he has indicated to His Honour that he would like to apologize. I have no firm details of this, but I understand that that has been a process. Mr. Speaker, not to abort that process, to extend that courtesy to the Leader of the Opposition, if he wants to make that apologize, that unconditional and unequivocal apologize, I am willing to rest my case and let the matter rest there.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Government House Leader says that he has no knowledge of details. For the record, the Government House Leader was advised as early as yesterday that the Leader of the Opposition has spoken to the Speaker on this matter. He was advised that the Leader of the Opposition was providing a written apology this morning to the Speaker. He was advised at noon today, as well yesterday, that when the House first opened, that the intention of the Leader of the Opposition was to stand and rise, and also do it publicly. Now, what is happening here is a desperate attempt to be punitive, to be cheap, to be petty, to try to cast in disrepute the Leader of the Opposition, when this Government House Leader - and I also understand that all members of his caucus were informed of what the Leader of the Opposition was going to do in the first place, which was to seize the highroad and do the right thing; but in the absence of that, he cannot say that he was not informed. He cannot say that some details were coming forward. Every step of the way he was advised from a parliamentary, courtesy point of view, and for him to stand and rise today, Mr. Speaker, is a feeble and unwarranted attempt to cast the Leader of the Opposition in a light that he is about to take himself out of. The Government House Leader can stand and say otherwise but he was fully aware of what transpired since February 6, and he was made fully aware by me, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, this case is not about me. I did not do anything, Mr. Speaker, to criticize the Speaker. I simply said that I was familiar that some talks had gone on, but that I was not familiar with the details. I am not familiar with the details. I stand by that, and if the hon. Leader of the Opposition wants to persist maybe we will take him up on a point of privilege.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Is the hon. member speaking to the point of privilege now?

MR. WILLIAMS: No, I am rising on my own point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: We are still on the point of privilege.

MR. LUSH: (Inaudible) to give his point of order, I will allow that.

MR. SPEAKER: On a point of order, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated to you privately in your office on two separate occasions, and as I have reiterated in writing in a letter which I delivered to you this morning, that I do sincerely apologize for any comments that were made outside the House of Assembly during December that may have offended you or any member of this House of Assembly. It certainly was not my intention to do so.

I would also like to point out that I did not use the term bias in my comments. Comments that were made to the reporter at that particular point in time may have implied that, but that term was never used.

Mr. Speaker, and to all members of this hon. House, I do sincerely apologize.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

This matter is a serious matter, and it certainly has caused me some concern since it was brought to my attention about the comments that the hon. member made. However, it would appear to me now that there is consensus here that the member's apology is sufficient to resolve the matter. If that is the consensus of the House, then I would assume that the matter is resolved and there will be no further discussion or consideration of the point of privilege raised by the hon. the Government House Leader.

Statements by Members

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber East.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MERCER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It gives me great pleasure to inform this hon. House that this past weekend, SnowJob 2002, Much Music's Annual Snowfest, concluded an enormously successful open-air concert at Marble Mountain.

This concert featured the Juno Award-winning and Canada's top hip-hop act, Swollen Members, and the Juno nominated Vancouver-based rocker group, Gob.

Not to be outdone, Wreckhouse Entertainment, the management team that brought SnowJob 2002 to Newfoundland, organized a four-day schedule of events around SnowJob that was known as the Big Gig.

One segment of the Big Gig was Collegiate Trivia Throwdown, featuring teams of students from Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, College of the North Atlantic and Academy Canada, in a test of brain power with Much Music's video jockey, Bradford How. While How put up a spirited battle, he was no match for the superior intellect of our students, Mr. Speaker.

Other segments of the Big Gig saw live music performances by five Newfoundland and Labrador bands that included Stereotype, Kane, Goldie's Homework, Margarita's Calling and Timber, with encore performances by Swollen Members and Gob.

For those who missed the live performances, SnowJob 2002 will be broadcast to millions of North American viewers on the Much Music TV Channel on March 16 and 17, Saturday and Sunday, between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate all members of Wreckhouse Entertainment and Much Music for once again showcasing Marble Mountain and Western Newfoundland to the rest of North America.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I certainly support the comments of my colleague from Humber East, but I rise on another matter, Mr. Speaker. I rise to congratulate all the participants in the Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the closing ceremonies two Saturdays ago, and I must say it was an absolutely fabulous event. The mood in that room, the tempo, the friendship, the smiles, the looks on the faces of all the young people who were involved, was a wonder to behold.

Unfortunately, I was not at the opening ceremonies but I was told that they were equal or better than the closing ceremonies. It was truly kind of an uplifting event. I must say, I was quite impressed as well with the talent that was there that day: the gymnasts, the choirs, and the showcase, actually, of Gander talent. I look at the Member for Gander as I say that. It was quite a demonstration - the bands, the gymnasts - and, as well also, credit to Mayor Claude Elliott who had a chance to strut his stuff and to strut the stuff of the volunteers in Gander. Of course, once again Gander has proven that it can rise to the occasion, as they did on September 11. It was a great experience. It made me really feel good about the Province, and about the young people in our Province. I am glad I was fortunate enough to attend.

I also want, of course, to extend special congratulations to the Western team who won the Gold Medal, the Premier's Cup, for the highest points in the competition. I hope that at the next Summer Games I may be able to present that Premier's Cup, which (inaudible).

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: As well, I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of the Mount Pearl/South Team for winning the Sport Newfoundland and Labrador Award for the most improved team since the last Winter Games, and a special hat's off to the Labrador team for winning the Lieutenant-Governor's Award for the team with the overall spirit of friendly competition and sportsmanship. That is what the Winter Games is all about.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to congratulate the athletes from the seventeen schools in Labrador who participated in the first ever Labrador High School Championships. I had the opportunity to attend the opening ceremonies, along with the Member for Torngat Mountains and the Member for Labrador West.

Mr. Speaker, the first championship sports were organized by the Labrador School Board and sponsored through the Newfoundland and Labrador High School Athletic Federation. In addition to the regular competitive sports, the High School Championships held competitions in sports such as the labrathon, snowshoeing, and the Northern Games, which includes events such as the seal crawl.

Mr. Speaker, these games were an opportunity for children in Labrador high schools to interact with each other in sport and friendship. It was the first opportunity for many of these young people to participate in such an event, and it was a huge success.

I would like to recognize the commitment and efforts of Darrell Feener, who co-ordinated this event for Labrador, and to especially recognize and congratulate Team Cartwright in the great District of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, who were the gold medal winners for the overall competition. I also want to congratulate Team Happy Valley-Goose Bay who were silver medal winners, and Team Makkovik who took home the bronze.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to recognize my hometown team, Team Mary's Harbour, who was chosen as the best-spirited and sportsmanlike team for the competition. I think it is quite evident why I am so co-operative.

There were many individuals who were outstanding in this competition as well. There were top athlete awards for each district of Labrador. I want to especially mention and congratulate Christopher Learning of Team Cartwright and Jessica Letto of Team Forteau who were the top male and female athletes in the District of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair.

Mr. Speaker, I was so impressed with all of these teams and the individuals who competed. On behalf of all my colleagues in Labrador, we certainly congratulate all of them for the tremendous effort that they made in sport and competition.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Bonavista South.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to offer to congratulations. I understand I might be taking a little bit of a risk, at least from our side of the House over here, in saying this: I offer congratulations to the Discovery Collegiate Destroyers, who won the 4A hockey championship this past weekend by beating Gonzaga by an impressive score of 7- 4.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: I understand that this same hockey team, in order to win the right of passage to enter into the final game, scored three goals in thirty-three seconds to win the right to take on Gonzaga. When you talk about the Discovery Collegiate hockey team, the Discovery Destroyers, we are talking about a school that has approximately 600 students from Grade VIII to Grade XII, Level 3, compared to other schools, like Ascension, that has approximately 1,000 students from Grade X to Grade XII. It is certainly a star in their crown to be able to come out, take part and represent the Province, and win the oldest hockey trophy in all of North America, the Boyle Trophy. They have gone back to Bonavista as a happy group of people.

For the record, I would like to read their names into Hansard, Mr. Speaker. Their names are: Randy Hicks; Skyler Butt; Mark Keel; Nathan Higgins; Matthew Bragg; Mitchell Bragg; Ian Bartlett; Jason Chard; Lee Elliott; David Penney; Bradley Lodge; Daniel Ryder; Chad Fisher; Adam Pardy; Andrew Sweetland; Terry Johnson; Steven Johnson; Shawn Stagg and Matthew Lawlor. The coaching staff was: Wade Mouland; Gord Broderick; and their trainer, Reg Butt.

So I am sure the House of Assembly joins with me in congratulating the Discovery Collegiate Destroyers in winning this prestigious title.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. FITZGERALD: Great victories are not uncommon in Bonavista South, and this is just another one to be racked up for that great historic district.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Port de Grave.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This must be the day for the hockey champions. I rise today in this hon. House to congratulate the achievements of the male and female teams of Ascension Collegiate, Bay Roberts, the Ascension Astros, on their recent success at the Confederation Cup Hockey Tournament.

This achievement, Mr. Speaker, was especially impressive, as the tournament involved a record forty-five teams, 112 games in twelve different facilities throughout the Avalon Region.

The girls team won their second straight Confederation Cup title with an 8-2 victory over Crescent Collegiate, with Ashley Drover scoring a hat trick while Peggy Wakeham and Nicole Penney each scored a pair of goals.

Meanwhile, the men's team edged their archrivals, Gonzaga 3-2 - so it has been a rough time for Gonzaga -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. BUTLER: - in the male tier one Championship game. Jonathon Connolly, Stephen Greeley and Justin Follett scoring their goals.

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate these players and their coaches, Mark Shortall and Sean King on this achievement and look forward to Ascension Collegiate defending the Confederation Cup in 2003.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Statements by Ministers

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Mines and Energy.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to provide hon. members with an update on three major resource projects: Voisey's Bay, The Lower Churchill and White Rose.

Mr. Speaker, as I stated in my last Voisey's Bay update to the House of Assembly on November 19, the majority of issues under discussion have been resolved. At that time, three or four fundamental issues remained outstanding and needed further negotiation. While not all of these issues have yet been fully resolved, good progress has been made on various aspects of each issue.

Negotiations have continued over the past number of months. Mr. Scott Hand, Deputy Chairman and CEO of Inco, and I have continued to discuss the remaining outstanding issues which must be successfully concluded before a commercial arrangement can be signed.

The Province's fundamental position on the remaining outstanding issues have been clearly articulated to Inco. A full guarantee of a processing facility in the Province, full processing to a finished nickel product in the Province, a guarantee that the amount of concentrate that may leave the Province in the early years of a project will be returned to the Province for processing, and acceptable development timelines are required elements of any acceptable deal on Voisey's Bay.

Mr. Speaker, government remains committed to negotiating a Voisey's Bay deal that will provide substantial benefits for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. This is our mandate from the people of the Province.

Mr. Speaker, we will remain at the negotiating table until we reach a deal which satisfies the Province's fundamental demands, or until we are certain that no deal can be reached.

Development of the Lower Churchill River has presented significant challenges over the past thirty years. Distance to market, ensuring adequate transmission capacity and securing a long-term customer has always been a challenge. Recently, government has been reviewing numerous options promoting the development of this resource.

In July, a preliminary feasibility review was undertaken with Alcoa regarding the viability of developing the Lower Churchill and establishing aluminum processing facilities in this Province.

In December, Alcoa presented their findings to government and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. A number of significant issues were identified, including transmission, ownership of the hydro facility, and royalties, just to name a few. Since that time there have been ongoing discussions. I have recently had the opportunity to meet, along with others, with senior Alcoa officials in New York and Montreal. Alcoa continues to express interest in the development project. However, we, as a government, are not yet certain whether there is a sound basis upon which to proceed forward with Aloca. We are continuing to explore this option. We have not extended the Letter of Intent with Alcoa, however, we are honouring the provisions of that agreement until such time as our discussions are concluded.

In the meantime, the lines of communication also remain open with Quebec. Premiers Grimes and Landry have briefly discussed the project and government officials are having some preliminary discussions surrounding the Lower Churchill potential.

I am optimistic that in the coming weeks, as these discussions progress, we will be in a position to decide on the future direction of the project. I will provide an update to the House at that time.

Mr. Speaker, in December of last year, both federal and provincial governments approved the White Rose Development Plan Application. This approval now permits the proponents, Husky and Petro-Canada, to move forward with the development of the White Rose field. Government worked closely with the proponents to ensure a significant level of benefits will accrue to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, government expects to hear from the White Rose proponents in the near future. We are optimistic that a decision will be announced soon and remain hopeful that the proponents will move forward with this project.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's East.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I, too, would like to just mention the three major projects in the order that was given by the hon. minister. With respect to Voisey's Bay, it is interesting to note that any negotiations would be in accordance with the mandate from the people of the Province. Mr. Speaker, I remember well the language that was used, and is used, in terms of the mandate that was given to this government in 1999. It had no reference to substantial benefits, I say, Mr. Speaker, but the words are maximum benefits, and, therefore, we must be vigilant to ensure that any deal is in accordance with what the mandate was.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: With respect to the Lower Churchill: This is what is missing, Mr. Speaker, from today's so-called update. That is: What exactly is the substantial information on what Alcoa is proposing? How does it differ from the proposals the government had been negotiating with Hydro-Quebec, Mr. Speaker? What are the timelines involved? What are the roadblocks that may exist? What are the concessions that the company may be requesting, or even the most general facts of the talks between the parties? That, Mr. Speaker, I say, is a true update, that is a real update, and that will give some confidence to the people of the Province in terms of exactly where we are.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the offshore: Recently we had some very significant announcements, namely from Exxon Mobil and Chevron. A really accurate update, Mr. Speaker, would be for this minister to say to the people of the Province exactly what is this government doing in response to these announcements several weeks ago by Exxon Mobil and Chevron.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. OTTENHEIMER: That response, hopefully, would continue to ensure the security and the integrity of this very important project and what it means to every single Newfoundlander and Labradorian.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister has now confirmed that its government proposal is to allow significant amounts of concentrate to leave the Province, and tries to state that this was always their position, when people in the Province know that exactly the opposite was the case.

The minister talks about guarantees. What I want to know, Mr. Speaker, is any guarantee going to be any more capable of enforcement than the guarantee given by Friede Goldman in Marystown, or by the arrangement with IOC that saw the pellet plant go to Sept-Iles instead of being developed in Labrador West?

Mr. Speaker, we are certainly looking forward to Churchill Falls and White Rose developments, but none of these projects can have maximum impact on the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador unless we can stop the equalization formula clawback that will see, in the case of Voisey's Bay, Ottawa receiving ten times the benefits of Newfoundland and Labrador. That has to change, Mr. Speaker.

Oral Questions

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions this afternoon are for the Premier, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, over the last couple of weeks I have listened and read, with great interest, reports of the renewed discussions which the minister referred to today on development of the Lower Churchill, and discussions with Alcoa and Hydro-Quebec. We have had an update from the minister and I thank you for that, Minister. I would like to ask the Premier today if he could provide the people of Newfoundland and Labrador with an update of his involvement in those negotiations, vis--vis Alcoa and Hydro-Quebec.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am glad to do so. On this side of the House we operate with a Cabinet system where the ministers have responsibility for their portfolios and certain duties. The Minister of Mines and Energy deals with the issues that he reported on today, and if he deems it necessary for me to be involved with a meeting with any of the principals of any of the companies that he is working with daily, weekly and monthly, then I do so at their request; the same as the Deputy Premier, who is involved in many of these discussions, as the minister responsible for maximizing Newfoundland and Labrador benefits in all of these relationships.

Mr. Speaker, the minister just reported that I was involved in meetings just recently with some senior officials of Alcoa, and also that I have spoken with the Prime Minister, as it is referred to, the Premier of Quebec, about the possible involvement and interest of the Government of Quebec in the Lower Churchill. Mr. Speaker, that is all I can say about the matter.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the reason I asked the Premier is because statements by the Minister of Mines and Energy have indicated that the Premier has been actually involved in negotiations and discussions with the Premier of Quebec, Mr. Landry.

As well, I think the minister indicated that the Premier and his Chief of Staff joined the minister and/or other ministers in Quebec for meetings as well. Perhaps you could just tell us the reason. You were not in New York, I understand, for the meetings, but perhaps you could tell us why you were in Quebec for those meetings, and what was the importance and the nature of those discussions?

AN HON. MEMBER: Good question.

CHAIR: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Not to make light of the matter, but maybe you would like a report on why I went home to lunch today instead of staying in the office.

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you this, and let me indicate to everyone in the Legislature, as I just indicated. I do not purport to try to run all of the involvement of the government by myself, every single day. We have very capable and competent ministers who get involved and handle this, Mr. Speaker. When they request, or they think in their judgement that it might be important for me and some of my staff to be involved along with them, I am glad to do so. Mr. Speaker, it is the result of that, that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are looking forward to, I am sure. I do not believe the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are looking forward to an accounting of where I go every single day, what I said, who I met. I think they are interested in knowing that I am meeting with some people, trying to have some development proceed in this Province so it will be a better place for all of us in the near future.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: A supplementary, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am also very interested in who you are meeting with, Premier, because I think it is of interest to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I am not as much interested in what you had for lunch as I am interested in what you had for supper last Tuesday night. Can you confirm for me, Mr. Premier, if in fact you were attending a political fundraiser in Montreal on last Tuesday, at $10,000 a table, whereby funds were raised for your political party and you were guest speaker? Were you attending that last Tuesday night in Quebec?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Yes, Mr. Speaker, and glad to have done so. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, it was a wonderful opportunity to speak to 150 of the highest ranking, business officials in and around Quebec, in and around Montreal.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Some from New York - by the way, Mr. Speaker, what we should all be proud of is this: they were willing to attend because they wanted to hear about the opportunities in our Province. That is the good news, Mr. Speaker. I would hope that if the Leader of the Opposition, when he does some travel outside the Province, which I know he does, and speaks to other groups, other political parties of his own stripe and so on, that they are interested enough - and I hope he out promoting Newfoundland and Labrador just as I proudly do, Mr. Speaker, every opportunity that I get.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: A supplementary, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, can the Premier confirm for me as to whether Alcoa were at that fundraising dinner, and whether Hydro-Quebec were at that fundraising dinner, and whether Alcoa, with whom you will be entering into negotiations, paid $10,000 a table, or some amount, to listen to you speak in Montreal last Tuesday night?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the extremely high level of debate that we can expect in the next little while obviously.

Let me state this again: to my knowledge representatives of Alcoa were at the dinner; to my knowledge representatives of Hydro-Quebec and the Quebec Government, and many other companies in Quebec and the surrounding area of Montreal and Quebec City were at the dinner. Mr. Speaker, I will tell you what, I was very pleased that they showed up and that we had an opportunity to speak to them in a general sense about the opportunities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, if the typical suggestion of the Opposition is that somebody on this side of the House - and he mentions $10,000 - last year in the leadership it was speculated about Inco, that Inco had made a donation to my campaign and as a result, I was willing to sell out the interest of Newfoundland and Labrador. That is the inference, that I would be willing to sell out the interest of Newfoundland and Labrador for a few, measly dollars at a fundraising dinner. Mr. Speaker, I can tell you, I hope - and I believe the people of the Province sincerely hope - that we can conclude a deal with an Alcoa, or with Hydro-Quebec, or with the Government of Quebec, to develop the Lower Churchill; and it will be seen, while we are on guard and on watch, to be the best deal. There will be no sell outs here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: You need not worry about that, Mr. Speaker, because last year at this time they were saying the deal was already cooked with Inco, the shop was already given away, and the update today suggests that there is no giveaway, there is no sell out, because we are still trying to maximize the benefits for Newfoundland and Labrador. That is our incentive. That is what we are obligated to do. That is what we are committed to do, and I am delighted to see the interest in it of the Leader of the Opposition.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

A supplementary, the hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I will provide the Premier with an opportunity now, at this point in time, if he wants to name the other very generous people who were at his meeting in Montreal and the involvement they might have with resources, interests and contracts in this Province.

I ask you Premier: Do you think it is appropriate that you should solicit and accept donations from someone with whom you are entering into negotiations to deal away the resources of this Province? Is that a Conflict of Interest? Do you see anything wrong with that? Because the people of Newfoundland certainly do.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Maybe I will just make this particular comment to the Leader of the Opposition; I do not know how he and his party arrange for fundraising but ours is very open. It is not done by me personally. I do not vet, go through, or screen invitation lists. People go out to the general community at-large and say: Are you willing to come to a function and contribute? Are you going to suggest now that you have never, ever spoken at a fundraising dinner where people actually paid for the privilege of coming to the dinner? Probably not, Mr. Speaker. Probably not, because they are not interested in hearing what he has to say.

Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is this: We will continue to raise funds for the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, openly, honestly, and in accordance with all the rules that are laid down for us. We do not apologize for that, Mr. Speaker. We will continue to do it. I just hope that there continues to be enough interest in our Province and in the prospects here, that they will continue to show up in bigger numbers and be willing to contribute to the success of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Ferryland.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My questions today are for the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Finance is looking for cuts of 5 per cent in salary and 8 per cent in operations across all departments. Now during past budgets government has used short-term fixes in creative accounting to hide the real deficit. We have seen hydro dividends; liquor corporation transfers; Term 29; the South Coast ferry service; HST, to name a few. I want to ask the minister: Will she confirm that she is considering using up to $100 million from the Labrador Transportation Initiative to address the shortfall in this year's budget?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I know the member opposite is very anxious to hear the Budget, but like the rest of the people of the Province, I have made an announcement that our Budget will be brought down on March 21, next Thursday, and all the details are there. I also have to say, Mr. Speaker, everything that the member has pointed to about deferring funds has actually been read out in the Budget Speeches of the past. We have never hidden any deficit.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: The deficit for the Province was tabled in the House of Assembly in November of this year at $349.7 million. It was tabled for the people of the Province in this House of Assembly in November. When the Auditor General raised the issue a few weeks ago, I concurred. It is there for everyone to see, Mr. Speaker. The public accounts does an accrual accounting. We do a cash statement, and it is there for all to see. There is nothing hidden, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Ferryland.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister has deliberately avoided answering the question of $100 million being used this year. That was my question. I understand, I say to the minister, that Labrador members were not impressed with that plan, and those concerns are well known by the minister, I might add. Now, will the minister come clean with the truth and admit that is the hot topic among your caucus for the last few days?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Finance.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Mr. Speaker, I was hoping he was going to ask me a question about the hack attack. I am wearing my bugs here today, to show that I am the minister responsible for IT.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: I have the bugs to prove it, Mr. Speaker. I would be happy to answer any questions and clarify anything about printers or bugs. I am open to that, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, on a more serious note, I have to say that all of the details, all of the information, will be made available to the people of the Province. Mr. Speaker, I will say again, the member opposite knows what money has been spent this year. He knows right now what our deficit is, for the people of the Province to know as well, that it is at $67 million at the moment, and all will become known next Thursday when our Budget is delivered. It will be there, it will be read out like it is every other year, for the member opposite to read and for the people of the Province to see.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Ferryland.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I can tell the minister, sparks were flying this weekend and it was not from bulldozers on the Trans-Labrador highway, I can tell you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SULLIVAN: Minister, your 5 per cent and your 8 per cent are not going to get the money you need if you are desperately trying to reach out and get $100 million from the Labrador Transportation Initiative.

I want to ask the minister: Where are you now going to find that $100 million that you were looking for this past weekend on the Trans-Labrador Highway?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: I will say, Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite, we had a little agreement earlier that he did not need to shout because the speakers were fixed, so I take him up on that.

Mr. Speaker, I tell you, there may be some sparks flying from graders in Labrador before this is all over. We never know; you have to stay tuned to find out.

I will also say, Mr. Speaker, in all fairness, that the member opposite will hear, just like everybody else in the House of Assembly and the people of the Province -

[An hon. member's cell phone rings]

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: Another hack attack!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS J.M. AYLWARD: The member opposite will hear, just like the people of the Province, next week, what our Budget is. Mr. Speaker, we believe it is a good Budget. If the member is suggesting that keeping a hiring freeze and asking departments to maintain their prudent management -

MR. SULLIVAN: Answer the question. That is not what I asked you.

MS J.M. AYLWARD: I am answering the question, Mr. Speaker, and I ask the member opposite to give me an opportunity because it is very important.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member: Is he suggesting that we cut salaries or roll back wages? Is that what he is suggesting? Because I would say, Mr. Speaker, we will continue to manage prudently, but we respect the offer for the public sector and we will maintain that commitment. Stay tuned for our Budget next Thursday.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Trinity North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. ROSS WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Community Services.

Mr. Speaker, last year in the fall session, the minister tabled a report that said that the accumulated deficits of all health boards up to March of last year was $97 million. Mr. Speaker, we now know that boards this year are going to have another $15 million to $18 million deficit. That amounts to $115 million of debt that has to start to come under repayment in this year.

The Minister of Finance and Treasury Board has been indicating that there will be no layoffs in health care, that there will be no reductions in health service in this Province. The big question, Mr. Speaker, is: How does the minister propose to service $115 million in debt without having any layoffs? I guess my question directly to the minister is: Next year, in the coming year, how many people will be laid off in our health system, and how many services? And, where does the minister propose health boards will reduce services to be able to live within their budget allocations for next year?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, as the member has indicated, the deficit for the year, March 2001, was indeed in the order of $97 million; $96 million or $97 million. He also indicated that back in March, and the early part of 2001, that the projected deficit for this year was in the order of, I believe, $18 million at the time that the first budget deficits were made.

The good news from the boards, after great effort on their part, is that the amount of that deficit has been significantly reduced, and because of the work that these boards have done in trying to introduce efficiencies, that figure is now down to the $8 million and lower areas. So, there has been significant progress in the health care system in trying to contain the escalating costs of health care in this Province.

As members who have been in this House for some time would recall, throughout this period government has indicated time and again that, through the process of developing a health plan, the whole purpose of developing a strategic health plan is to try and ensure that we can have a sustainable health care system which, of course, means being able to afford the system that we have, and through this process, as we develop the health plan, our boards will develop their plans for how to live within the funds that they have been allotted.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Trinity North.

MR. ROSS WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the minister would check with not only the institutional boards but also with health and community service boards, because the $8 million that she is talking about is only about one-half of what the actual total accumulated deficit will be of all health boards. When we speak of health boards, Mr. Speaker, we are not just talking about institutional boards; we are talking about health and community services and the institutional side.

Mr. Speaker, on the point that she has raised, health boards did propose budget strategies for next year when they submitted their budget requests earlier. My question to the minister is: How many deductions, and what numbers of reductions, did they propose to be able to live within their budgets for next year? Can she tell the people of this Province today: How many people does she plan, and the boards plan, to reduce in the health system next year, and where she is proposing to make some adjustments in programs to allow boards to live within their budgets. That is the more direct question, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BETTNEY: Again, Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Finance has indicated, the Budget for 2002-2003 has not yet been announced. In due course, when the Budget is announced for this coming year, it will be clearer what the amount of funding is that is available for the health boards in this Province. Through this process, we will inform the boards of the amount of their funding.

Let me assure you, Mr. Speaker, that, as in the past, our boards will make every effort to achieve the best possible efficiencies in their systems because they understand the critical nature of health care funding in this Province, and they understand that it is important to have a sustainable health care system. They are working very hard with government to try and ensure that they can deliver the best possible services.

Mr. Speaker, to answer the question directly: When the Budget is announced we will be able to discuss, then, the funding that is available for health care boards.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: A final supplementary, the hon. the Member for Trinity North.

MR. ROSS WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, in the spirit of helping boards deal with their budgets, would the minister be prepared to acknowledge today that the $97 million from last year, plus the $18 million from this year, or really the $115 million deficit that health boards will be left with by the end of this month, that that is really a public debt and not just a debt of health boards, and that it would be more appropriate if government were to include that figure, that $115 million, in their borrowing for next year, rather than have all the health boards trying to negotiate with chartered banks some kind of repayment arrangement for $115 million? Will you be prepared to commit that government will include that figure in their borrowing to alleviate that burden from boards next year?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Health and Community Services.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS BETTNEY: Mr. Speaker, we will decide, through the process of developing our strategic health plan, on how we will deal with the long-term issue related to the accumulated deficits of these boards. We have said this from the beginning. We said that this has to be part of the process. We have regular discussions with the boards on this issue. The boards themselves are looking at ways in which they can accommodate the accumulated deficit as well. These matters are not decided or determined yet here today, and it is a matter that we have to have further deliberations on.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question is for the Premier.

The Premier is aware that the Barry Group has requested as allocation of 3,000 tons of redfish in 3N+3O off the waters adjacent to Newfoundland and Labrador. In light of the fact that this proposal has received the support of an all-party committee of the Nova Scotia Legislature, and the federal minister is expected, according to media reports, to make a decision this week, I want to ask the Premier: What is he and his government doing to ensure that we do not have further erosion of the adjacency principle and further allocations of Newfoundland and Labrador fish stocks to the Province of Nova Scotia? Given what happened in Burgeo some years ago, the same plant, the same community, received redfish stocks from Newfoundland and Labrador. What is the Premier prepared to do to prevent this from happening again?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This government takes the issue very seriously. When it was raised some months ago, I wrote the federal minister responsible at the time, Mr. Dhaliwal, and told him that we totally disagreed with any allocation of fish in waters adjacent to this Province being transferred to other Provinces. We would totally disagree with it. The day after the new minister, Mr. Thibault, was sworn in, I spoke to him personally on the telephone and told him that we oppose that. I met with him again last Tuesday, here in the Province, and I told him exactly that again. He has not made the decision, but it is the indication in the discussion that I had with him that he really does not have an interest in assigning any quotas to individual towns because, like Canso, there are numerous towns in this Province who find themselves in the same situation. If I were a betting man, I would think that he is probably not going to do it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I hope we do not have to rely on the bets or the odds given by the Minister of Fisheries. I wonder, is the Premier prepared to up the ante a little bit by supporting a resolution in this House so that the full members of this House have an opportunity to support a resolution endorsing the position that there be no allocations of 3O stocks, or any stocks adjacent to Newfoundland, to fish plants or enterprises for processing outside of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I take the point quite seriously. Actually, we could have the same effect of it right this very minute. You know the position of the government is absolutely, diametrically, opposed to it. We know that the NDP is absolutely opposed to it. If the Leader of the Opposition stands and says he is absolutely opposed to it, we have an all-party resolution passed right now.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My question today is for the Minister of Industry. Late in December, I received - after a request for Freedom of Information - a substantial amount of information from his department looking for professional services, consultants, payments paid out of his department. It reads like a Who's Who, who is benefitting from the largess of government.

In particular, on January 5, 2001, Bristol Communications received $50, 000, which was only a final payment, for a multimedia presentation. I would like to ask the minister this question: What was the multimedia presentation? How much was it? And, did this contract go to public tender?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Rural Development.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me say to the hon. gentleman that the finer details of that, for him, I can get; but let me also say to him that Bristol has been engaged for some time in carrying on a number of public relations plans for the Department of Industry, Trade and Rural Development, and indeed, the department of development and rural renewal, when that department was there as well, and the contract obviously carried over into ITRD when that was put together. One of those contracts was: We Are Doing It Right Here, a very professional piece of work which Bristol did for us, and I can say to the hon. gentleman, one that we credit with having made the kind of economic gains that we have made in this Province over the last four or five years.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: A supplementary, the hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, we all know who Bristol Communications does work for among the department, the government, and also the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador. The fact of the matter remains: How much was the multi-media presentation? He has not answered it. He knows what it is. Secondly, was a public tender required? If not, why not? Finally, Mr. Speaker, surely there must be somebody in your department who can put together a multi-media presentation for the department. After all, your department is supposed to be the lead department and the experts in that area. Surely, the minister can answer those questions. He knows exactly what presentation I am talking about.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Minister of Industry, Trade and Rural Development.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me again say to the hon. gentleman that I will get him all the details of what he is asking, right down to the final word. There are a number of communication companies that work for the Department of ITRD, and I can tell him that Bristol did work on this campaign.

MR. E. BYRNE: (Inaudible) like Bristol.

MR. TULK: Let me just say to the hon. gentlemen -

MR. E. BYRNE: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. minister to get to his answer.

MR. TULK: Mr. Speaker, let me just say to the hon. gentleman: Yes, Bristol did have the: We Are Doing It Right Here campaign. It was a very large campaign and Bristol did have - it was a substantial sum. It was done, as I recall - I will check it out more closely - from under: Call for Proposals.

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has ended.

Presenting Reports by Standing and Special Committees

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island.

MR. WALSH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today in my capacity as Chair of the Resource Committee -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Chair has recognized the hon. Member for Conception Bay East & Bell Island, who is tabling a report.

MR. WALSH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I stand today in my capacity as Chair of the Resource Committee to present a report of that Committee with respect to one of two bills that were referred to Committee during the December sitting of the House of Assembly, December 13, 2001, as a matter of fact, page 2395.

I present a report today with respect to Bill 45, An Act Respecting Environmental Protection. There are some thirty-odd amendments put forward with respect to this bill, of which some eight have been accepted at the Committee level. We will now have an opportunity, I would think, in Committee of the House to deal with the bill in its entirety. I present this in my capacity as Chair on behalf of the Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Humber East.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MERCER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Social Services Standing Committee has, within the guidelines set down by the House on December 13, considered the matters to them referred, and have directed me to report the following: On February 26, and again on March 4, the Committee met to consider thirty-five amendments proposed by Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition to Bill 49, An Act To Provide The Public With Access To Information And Protection Of Privacy. By a majority vote the Committee has accepted, or accepted with modification, thirteen of the thirty-five proposed amendments. These amendments include, amendments to Section 2, Sections 8, 10, 16(2)(b), and 33, Section 13, Section 19, Section 38, Section 44(1), Section 60(3), Section 62(3), Section 68(2), and Section 72.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Notices of Motion

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. REID: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask leave to introduce a bill entitled, An Act to Amend the Fishery Products International Limited Act, Bill 65.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Port de Grave.

MR. BUTLER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I give notice that I will on tomorrow present the following Private Member's Motion on Canada taking custodial management of the Continental Shelf off our coast:

WHEREAS the marine resources on the Grand Banks of this Province are a critical element of the global ecosystem; and

WHEREAS these resources have the potential to provide tremendous economic benefit on a substantial basis; and

WHEREAS the protection and conservation measures provided by the International Community, an organization such as NAFO are not sufficient to protect marine resources on the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks off the Coast of this Province; and

WHEREAS the longer this ecosystem remains unprotected, increased and possibly irreparable damage continues to occur;

BE IT RESOLVED that this House of Assembly calls upon the Government of Canada to take custodial management of the Continental Shelf off the Coast of Newfoundland and Labrador; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT this House of Assembly calls on the Government of Canada to put in place the necessary provisions and resources to enforce conservation measures for the marine resources in this area.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Petitions

 

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Trinity North.

MR. ROSS WISEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise today to present a petition on behalf of the people of the Clarenville area. Just let me read from the petition itself. It says:

WHEREAS the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced in its 2001-2002 Budget there would be a long-term care facility constructed in Clarenville and the Department of Health and Community Services was given $500,000 to commence the engineering and design work for that said facility; and

WHEREAS further in August of 2001, the then Acting Minister of Health and Community Services further confirmed to the Town of Clarenville that government is committed to build a forty-four bed, long-term care facility and it is expected that the design consultants will be appointed in September of 2001.

Mr. Speaker, this has been a major issue in the Clarenville area for quite some time. The residents of the districts of Bellevue, Terra Nova, Bonavista South and Trinity North were made a commitment last year that that long-term care facility would in fact be built, and the money was allocated in this fiscal year for that to happen. The $500,000 was allocated to start the design and engineering work. That was in March, Mr. Speaker, but then in August of last year the then Acting Minister of Health and Community Services wrote the Mayor of Clarenville and said: not to worry, government is committed to building a forty-four bed, long-term care facility in Clarenville. Not only that, we are going to proceed - now this was August month, Mr. Speaker - in September and appoint a consultant to do the engineering and design work.

The money was in the Budget. Next week we are going to have a new Budget come down. So here we are today, on the eve of this year's Budget, and this government has still not yet honoured the commitments that they made in last year's Budget. Does that mean we need to take next week's Budget and just edit out what we don't think is going to happen? Because that commitment was made last year. The commitment was made -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SULLIVAN: Did you hear what the Government House Leader said, hope they do not do it now, he said.

MR. ROSS WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I just acknowledged that the residents of the Terra Nova District are in fact petitioning. Mr. Speaker, many of the names on this petition that I am submitting today are names of residents of the Terra Nova District. I just heard the Member for Terra Nova District suggest: I hope they don't proceed again this year.

Mr. Speaker, I guess I will go back and take the twenty-five or thirty names from his district and make personal contact with them and send them copies of Hansard, because obviously he does not want them to have the long-term care facility that they were promised last year in the Budget.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that the Member for Terra Nova not only speak about that in this House -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member's time is up.

MR. ROSS WISEMAN: - but tell the members in his district that he does not want it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Youth Services and Post-Secondary Education.

MS KELLY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In February, as students in our Province participated in a national student day of protesting, on that day I met with many of those students from this Province.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. minister is presenting a petition?

MS KELLY: Yes, to the House of Assembly. The pray of the petition reads:

A petition to the House of Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We the undersigned residents of Newfoundland and Labrador draw the attention of the House of Assembly to the following:

WHEREAS post-secondary education has become a basic need for Canadians and the future development of Canada; and

WHEREAS by 2004, 72 per cent of all new jobs will require post-secondary education; and

WHEREAS tuition fees in Newfoundland and Labrador have increased 146 per cent since 1991; and

WHEREAS tuition fees are a significant upfront barrier to post-secondary education; and

WHEREAS average student debt loads in Newfoundland and Labrador have increased from $8,000 in 1990 to almost $30,000 today; and

WHEREAS the loans-based approach to student financial assistance has proven to be a failure at guaranteeing access;

THEREFORE your petitioners call upon the House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador to: legislate a progressive reduction of tuition fees and all public post-secondary institutions in Newfoundland and Labrador; increase post-secondary education funding; implement a comprehensive review of grants available to all students on the basis of need; and call on the federal government to restore funding for post-secondary education and to negotiate a national agreement on standards of quality, accessibility and mobility for post-secondary education.

Mr. Speaker, this government will soon announce our new student aid program; and, while I do not necessarily agree with all the wording in this petition, I would like to say that we have spent a great deal of time speaking with students, their parents, and post-secondary educational institutions. I look forward to addressing some of the concerns presented in this petition shortly.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Orders of the Day

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I wanted to get the agreement of the House to move first reading of Bill 65, An Act To Amend The Fishery Products International Limited Act, so that we could get the legislation distributed.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We will provide leave on first reading, because we have not seen the legislation. I understand that many other members on both sides of the House have not seen it either. We will provide leave to move through the Notice of Motion and first reading so that at least the legislation can be distributed, we can have a look at it, and then begin debate maybe tomorrow or whenever government wants to call the legislation.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Mr. Speaker, I have to say that I am quite surprised to hear that we will not be able to debate the FPI legislation today, which I understood was the culmination of our all-party committee and our unanimous recommendations which the Premier had undertaken to follow. Obviously we have to look at the legislation to see if it conforms to that, but my understanding is that there had been an all-party agreement to do it on the first day the House was open, because of the importance of the act and the statement that it would make, to do it on the first day that the House opened, assuming that the act is in conformity to the recommendations that were made. I am sorry to hear, Mr. Speaker, that the Opposition House Leader is prepared to say, without even seeing the act, that he is not prepared to debate it today.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, my learned friend from Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi just said the operative word. First of all, he is assuming that the legislation is in keeping with the all-party committee resolution. Secondly, we are not prepared to assume anything in that regard. There is a process for legislation in this House. It is called Notice of Motion, first reading, second reading, and third reading. Now, that is a process by which all members are afforded the opportunity before government expects debate to begin. Personally, and speaking for this caucus - we spoke about it this morning - we want to see the legislation before we are asked to stand up and comment on it in a thorough way, in a way that is reflective of the place we are in, so that we are not all caught off guard. There was no all-party consensus to debate this.

Clearly I want everyone to understand, and I communicated this to the Government House Leader today, that we are not trying to be obstructionists, that we are not going to hold up this piece of legislation if it is in keeping with what the all-party committee put forward; but I will say this, not only on this piece of legislation but any other: We are not prepared, as members, to have a bill dropped on us today, while we have never seen a draft of it or any other aspect of it, without having the appropriate amount of time, which is one parliamentary day, to have some opportunity to review it so that we can come back and comment on the legislation in an intelligent and informed way, which is exactly what the public expects of us, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I apologize for not having the legislation for members to see. Although I was working on the basis of my own members, everybody on my own side, they have not seen the legislation either but they are quite prepared to debate it today because it reflects with what the members talked about in the consultations that they had throughout the Province.

I apologize. I was not aware - and I am the one person who wants people to be informed. I am the one person who wants to get legislation in people's hands. Nobody can deny, I have given legislation, and I do not want to hear the hon. member laughing derisively.

I can tell you that I have said in the House, I am having a hard time learning because I came from a school - I was taught thirteen years, you did not get the legislation beforehand. It was passed on your desk and you got to debate it, so I am learning. It is the first mistake I have made and I apologize to the hon. member. I apologize that I did not get the legislation out in time. I apologize for that but I working, as I said, on the assumption that the members on this side were all equal; they have not seen it either.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to move first reading so that we can get the legislation, get it into the hands of the members as quickly as possible.

If I might, Mr. Speaker, I am also prepared to meet this evening and we could discuss it this evening. This gives hon. members three or four hours to look at the bill, if hon. members will agree to that, that we come back after 5 o'clock, after 6 o'clock, and pass the legislation.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

From the remarks of the Opposition House Leader, you would not know but the government was springing the legislation on them unknown. The second reading debate, as hon. members will know, is approval in principle. Surely we can determine in pretty short order that the principles that we expect in the bill are contained in the five recommendations of the all-party committee. I have to say that the first notice that I had that this bill was not going to be debated today, whether in principle or otherwise, was when I was walking into the Chamber at 1:30 this afternoon. I am quite shocked to find out here that we cannot even debate the principles of the bill, the five principles that our committee unanimously agreed to, that I am assuming - and I have to say yes, I am assuming - that they are going to be contained in the legislation. If they are not contained in the legislation, Mr. Speaker, I will know it right away. I will not need two days to figure that out.

If we cannot debate it in principle, Mr. Speaker, I do not know what we can do today given the fact that we have five principles set out in the recommendations of this all-party committee.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: So it is agreed that the bill be called for first reading?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Agreed.

Motion, the hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture to introduce a bill, "An Act To Amend The Fishery Products International Limited Act," carried.(Bill 65)

On motion, Bill No 65 read a first time, ordered read a second time on tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, to make sure I understand where we are, the Opposition is saying no to debating the bill, not even later, to come back at 7:00 p.m.?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Speaker, I do not know how much clearer we can be. At 12 o'clock today, an hour-and-a-half before the House opened, I met with the Government House Leader and told him that as a caucus, number one, we would not obstruct, in anyway whatsoever, the Fishery Products International Act. Secondly, I did tell him, that we are not prepared to move from Notices of Motion on a bill, to first reading, right into second reading because we have not seen the legislation. I, for one, in the nine-and-a-half years that I have been here, have seen many reports like this one. When legislation was tabled, what was in the report did not mirror what was in the legislation. Now we reserve the right - yes, and I can go to one, the accounting report, I say to the Government House Leader. He says: that's not true. He knows it is true because he and I participated in the debate.

Mr. Speaker, we reserve the right as elected members in the House and the Opposition. We have given leave today so first reading could be allowed. The bill will now be distributed, and we will take today and this evening to review the bill. When second reading is appropriate for it to be re-introduced, which is on another parliamentary day, we will be prepared to debate it. I say to the Government House Leader, that it has been communicated to you at 12 o'clock today, a few moments ago, and again right now. That is where it is.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier, on a point of order.

PREMIER GRIMES: Mr. Speaker, just to a point of order, so it is clear, and I think the people of the Province need to understand this. We have a circumstance where an all party committee dealt with the issues and recommended five principles that should be contained in the changes to the FPI Act. We will get to see the written versions of that right now. They are being distributed; it is in here. In this House, everybody understands our procedures. If we move to second reading it does not mean that we examine the details of these words. It just means that we check and see whether or not the five principles, that have already been agreed to by the Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, and the New Democrats, through a committee structure, are embodied in here. It is the next stage of the debate that I understand the concern is being raised about, that we will want to check and see, because when we go to the committee stage then we take each clause, one by one, and examine whether or not the words actually reflect the principles that we have committed here.

It seems a bit at odds and at variance for the Opposition House Leader today to be taking this stance on behalf of his caucus because it is - and this is, admittedly, a politically charged, and intended to be, comment - his leader, the Leader of the Opposition, who said: Don't have a committee. Don't study anything. Open the House and change the legislation today. I would like to know, Mr. Speaker, how he was planning on accomplishing that, which was the Leader of the Opposition's position when this issue started, and now, today, he cannot even debate it in principle.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: Maybe, Mr. Speaker, instead of the Leader of the Opposition having his bodyguard and his protector stand up and carry the ball for him, maybe he will stand up right now and say why it is that he is incapable of having anything whatsoever, today, to say about the five principles that his members of the committee have already agreed should be in this bill.

Tomorrow, if we want, or tonight, we can come back and examine it in a lawyerly fashion, and some other fashion, to see whether or not the details are in the print. It is completely at odds for the Leader of an Opposition who would grandstand early on in this debate and say: Don't call a committee together; don't tour the Province; don't let anybody have anything to say about this; open the Legislature tomorrow and we will change the act. That is what he said. Stand up and tell us what you are saying today, because just like normal, you don't say anything. You let your bodyguard over there speak for you. Let's hear it again today!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: If I might speak to that point of order. This is the same gentleman, the hon. the Premier, when I sat up there a year ago and he was not interested enough to ask any questions about this legislation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: Why is he interested today? Do you know why he is interested today? Because it is politically expedient for him to be interested today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: I cannot believe the gall of you to stand up and get on with that in this House of Assembly after what I witnessed last year. You were not even in the House. When the decision was made you were not even here. The poor Minister of Fisheries had to stand up there -

AN HON. MEMBER: Who?

MR. WILLIAMS: The poor Minister of Fisheries, who is just as much in the dark today as he was yesterday, had to stand up all by himself. Where were you, Premier? You were not even in the House. I know where you were.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

Again, I want to remind hon. members that we should not reference the absence of members from the Chamber at any point in time. Members have to be away from the House for obvious reasons, particularly a minister. I just want to remind members that we should not make reference to ministers, or other members, who are absent from the House.

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, to the point of order.

We sat in our caucus this morning - I spent the weekend going through all the FPI material. We were fully ready to debate this matter today, in all conscious, fully ready to debate it. We did not receive the legislation until now. I received this document five minutes ago. Mr. Speaker, this is an area in this House where I think I can really (inaudible) contrary to the Member for Signal Hill, who is also a lawyer. I am a member of the Newfoundland Bar, the Law Society of Newfoundland. I think I can add something to this, and I am here to help. I am here to protect the interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. So I want an opportunity, in all fairness, to go through this and make sure that we do not have the same problem all over again.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: I intend to take the time and use the benefit of thirty years of experience at law - and my learned friend, Mr. Ottenheimer, and my learned friend, Mr. Rideout will also participate, but we are not prepared to rubber stamp everything you bring before us. It is not going to happen. So, in all conscious -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. WILLIAMS: - representing the people of this Province, we are going to take the time to make sure that this is done right, and I do not apologize to anyone for that.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier, to the point of order.

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I appreciate the Leader of the Opposition giving his views and speaking to the point of order. Again, recognizing that the only people he values in his caucus are the other lawyers.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!

PREMIER GRIMES: I guess the rest of them must feel really good about it. The people who sat on the committee for him, like his Fisheries critic. I guess the people of the Northern Peninsula understand that his Fisheries critic is not really involved in this debate in that caucus. That is instructive and useful to know, Mr. Speaker.

Let me again - because it is a serious point of order, Mr. Speaker. Again, I understand that as learned and as experienced as the Leader of the Opposition is in court, the apology that he gave today makes it clear that he is still trying to learn the rules in here.

Let me explain again the point that I am making, Mr. Speaker. We appreciate every opportunity of taking the clause by clause examination and making sure that we get it right. Mr. Speaker, everybody in this House, especially yourself, knows that is done - not in second reading, which the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi is suggesting that we should do. Second reading is just the basic principles of the bill. Do we believe the bill should include certain features? It is not detail. The detail - that we gladly take the assistance of the Leader of the Opposition in - is in the next stage of the debate, the next phase, which is the committee. That is why I am puzzled as to why the Leader of the Opposition, who is ready to do it all in one day, the next day, with no reference to anybody, now cannot even talk about the principles of the bill, is not prepared, even though he has had a committee agree to it, is not prepared today to talk about the fundamental principles that should be in this bill, which is what second reading does. It has nothing to do with detail, has nothing to do with legalese, has nothing to do with the actual wording of the act or the bill. It has to do with concept; has to do with idea, has to do with what we are trying to accomplish in a general sense.

Maybe, Mr. Speaker, again, because I know the Leader of the Opposition is open-minded, he is trying to be helpful, but why anybody would not be prepared today - because he said he did spend all weekend looking at the all the details of FPI, so he must know now what principles he stands for; what ideas he stands for. The detail is in the Committee stage, Mr. Speaker.

I would understand as well that, contrary to us, he is now also willing to suggest that one of the former Premiers, who was a Fisheries Minister and introduced this bill, made some serious and grave mistakes -

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER GRIMES: - because he said: We do not want to make the mistakes over again.

I am not sure that the former Minister of Fisheries agrees with that either, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I ask the hon. the Premier now to conclude his point of order.

PREMIER GRIMES: So, maybe he will get up again and diminish and insult four or five members extra of his caucus, just like he did with the rest of them the last time, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

During the course of his point of order, it was suggested that I was jumping to a conclusion and making an assumption that this bill would contain principles. I can confirm, given ten or fifteen minutes to read the bill, that clause 1 of the bill has a preamble which uses the exact same words as recommendation 5 of the committee report. Clause 2 of the bill has the provisions contained in recommendation 3 of the report. Clause 3 is the privative clause, and clause 4 deals with recommendation 1. The other recommendation of the committee, clause 2, did not call for immediate legislation but depends on negotiations with FPI.

So, I can confirm that all of those principles that are in the recommendations are actually in the bill. Whether the committee's wording on the preamble is open to debate or change by this House is a matter for second reading or Committee reading, but certainly the principles are there, Mr. Speaker, and I believe that this House, certainly the committee members and those who listened to the committee, really should be in a position to debate the merits of the committee's recommendations.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

To the point of order, I will conclude that there is no agreement to move forward with the second reading today.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Order 3, Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole on Bill 49.

On motion, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole, Mr. Speaker left the Chair.

Committee of the Whole

CHAIR (Mercer): Order, please!

Bill 49, "An Act To Provide The Public With Access To Information And Protection Of Privacy".

Shall clause 1 carry?

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. HARRIS: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: A point of order, the hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: I understand there has been a report from the committee. I haven't seen it yet. I understand we are now in Committee of the Whole debating the amendments with the report.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. HARRIS: Well, I just want a copy of it, that is all.

CHAIR: Order, please!

If we could just take a moment while the Clerk of the House makes copies of the report.

[The Committee takes a moment while copies are being made.]

CHAIR: (Inaudible) the report from the committee. I understand she has a number of copies and she still has to make a few more. So they are being made momentarily.

Perhaps now we could go back to the hon. Opposition House Leader.

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I guess we are on clause 1 dealing with the bill.

Mr. Chair, government has indicated, I guess, how anxious they are to get this piece of legislation. I understand that. It is important to review for the record, I think, where this was prior to Christmas and where we are now, and what has transpired in between, just for a matter of fact, and set the discussion in terms of what is about to take place. Prior to Christmas, government were open for a period of three weeks. During that time is one of the reasons, I want to say, that this piece of legislation, Bill 49, the Freedom of Information Act, was sent to the committee. I do not want anybody to leave the impression today that somehow we are upholding, or holding up, government's legislative agenda.

Prior to Christmas, for example, when government opened the House, in three weeks we passed a significant number of bills. It was an ambitious legislative agenda put forward by the government in a condensed period of time. Bill 21, Bill 22, Bill 25, Bill 26, Bill 28, Bill 33, Bill 34, Bill 35, Bill 40, Bill 42 - we sent Bills 44, 45 and 49 to committee - we dealt with Bill 46, Bill 48, Bill 50, Bill 52, Bill 53, Bill 54, Bill 55, Bill 56, Bill 57, Bill 58, Bill 59, Bill 60, Bill 63, Bill 64, Bill 23, Bill 24, Bill 27, Bill 29, Bill 30, Bill 31, Bill 32, Bill 36, Bill 37, Bill 38, Bill 39, Bill 43 and Bill 47.

Before anyone takes the opportunity this afternoon to stand up and say that this Opposition has been obstructionist on this piece of legislation - and I hope it does not, I hope no one does - but in case they do, I want the record to show, clearly as it does, but to remind people who may be watching, and members in the Legislature, that when we left here at Christmas, for the Christmas break, there were three pieces of legislation out of what surely can only be described as an ambitious legislative agenda, that all of the bills that we passed from first reading to second reading, to committee stage, to third reading, that received the Lieutenant-Governor's Royal Assent -

AN HON. MEMBER: Over thirty bills.

MR. E. BYRNE: Over thirty bills, that is correct, in really what amounted to about sixteen parliamentary days for legislation.

AN HON. MEMBER: Less than that.

MR. E. BYRNE: Less than that, yes.

MR. SULLIVAN: You had private members' days.

MR. E. BYRNE: Yes, private members' days, so twelve parliamentary days.

There was an agreement made, Mr. Chair, that these bills would go to the Legislative Review Committee and that the Legislative Review Committee would report back to this House on the progress that was made.

Let us also be clear, it was certainly an understanding that I had - and I communicated this to the committee that I sat on dealing with Bills 44 and 45 - that we should hold at least a public hearing, or a couple of public hearings, to provide anybody in the Province with the opportunity, if they wished, to have some opportunity, I guess, to provide their point of view to it.

January went by, all of February went by, and we were into March when the committees began to meet. I do not say that to take a swipe at government because everybody knows, including ourselves, what transpired from an all-party committee of the House which we supported. The committees went ahead and did their work, and there are a number of amendments, a number of amendments, that we have proposed to government. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General has responded to some of those; but, bear in mind that this is our first opportunity - our very first opportunity - to debate in a clause-by-clause format, the Committee stage, this legislation, and to put forward some of the amendments that we suggested initially, and an opportunity for the public to see why we feel strongly, as an Opposition, about certain amendments dealing with the freedom and access to information and privacy issues.

This is an important piece of legislation. Of that there can be absolutely no doubt. The issues surrounding privacy, individual rights and privacy, are extremely important issues related to a legislative agenda. This is the first opportunity that we will get a chance to debate that in clause- by-clause.

Mr. Chair, on the issue of freedom of information and what should be available and what should not be made available, again we have made a significant number of amendments to the Minister of Justice. Some of that has been dealt with at the committee level, I understand, and we will get to that in a few moments.

Again, we are not going to unduly obstruct this piece of legislation, I want to be clear on that, but we will take the amount of time necessary to deal with the amendments that we feel strongly about and that government - we will government, obviously, the full opportunity and they will take advantage of the time that they have available in Committee stage to debate the amendments that we have put forward.

With that, Mr. Chair, I will sit down. I know there are other members of the caucus who are prepared to speak on this issue and I look forward to taking part in the debate surrounding this issue. I will say that the leader of our party was the one who took the lead on this piece of legislation, felt passionate and strongly about it. He will be participating in the debate, in a detailed way, as the course of the clause-by-clause debate goes on. With that, Mr. Chair, I will sit down and give the floor to my colleagues.

Thank you.

CHAIR: Shall clause 1 carry?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

CHAIR: On clause 1?

It is understood now that we will be debating the bill clause-by-clause and not doing the entire debate under clause one.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

CHAIR: We are still on clause 1, okay.

The hon. the Member for Lewisporte.

MR. RIDEOUT: I just wanted to make one quick comment on clause one, Mr. Chairman, just to say that clause 1 is only the short title of the bill and I do not intend to spend any time debating clause 1. Clause 1 can carry whenever the Chair is ready to carry it. There are other clauses in this piece of legislation that we will want to spend a fair amount of time on, but not clause 1.

CHAIR: The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Just again, I am not going to take up any undue time. I just wanted to respond to a couple of remarks made by the Opposition House Leader, just simply to say I thank him for recognizing the ambitious agenda that we had back in the previous session, back in the fall session. We did have a heavy agenda, but I want people to know that we have given a reasonable amount of time for debating the bills, because that is what we need to do. We need to take our time with the bills. We are not in a rush.

The hon. member says they are not going to obstruct. Well, the people of the Province will witness that, whether they will obstruct, and I am not saying they are obstructing. I have never said it. We want to give ample time, and that is why we went to the committees, Mr. Chair, to give time for members - and I think we did have one public hearing in one of the committees, particularly the one on the freedom of information - that there was certainly ample space and time for people to participate in the formulation of that bill and to make their suggestions. It was government's view, particularly on the freedom of information, that we had consulted with the public, and we could carry on. We could carry on consulting for the next year, for the next two years, but we think we have consulted sufficiently on this bill and met with experts in the field, and think we have come up with a pretty good bill.

Mr. Chairman, we look forward to the passage of this particular bill, and we intend to give the Opposition the time that they need to present their case and to make any changes. Of course, we will be participating in the debate as well.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

On motion, clause 1 carried.

CHAIR: Shall clause 2 carry?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Carried.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, Mr. Chairman.

MR. LUSH: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: Order, please!

On a point of order, the hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: I am just wondering, Mr. Chairman, if we can get some efficient way of going through this because we can understand that, with clause-by-clause, members are going to want to speak and we are going to get a little mixed up, so maybe if we took our time. Nobody is anxious to pass onto a clause if somebody wants to speak to the clause, but maybe we should all be a little patient. Maybe the Chair could take its time and make sure that everybody has heard the particular clause, particularly when we get into amendments. I just want to make sure there is no confusion.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Lewisporte.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I appreciate what the Government House Leader has to say, but it is my understanding that the government has agreed to some sort of an amendment to clause 2. Now, we would want to see that amendment and debate that amendment when we are considering clause 2. I was hanging back, expecting the minister to jump up and have a few words on the amendment that the government says it is accepting, and put it forth so that we can see what it is and then debate it. That is why I was holding back a bit, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Chairman, just for a matter of clarification here. Again, bear with me, this is my first time of ever having a piece of legislation in the House that we went through in any significant detailed format. The purpose, as I understand it here - and I am certainly open to some assistance from the Chair or my colleagues - there were certain amendments put forward back in December by the Leader of the Opposition before the House closed, which was referred to the Select Committee. I appeared before the committee last week and gave the department and government's response to those suggested amendments. Some of them were acceptable to government and some of them were not acceptable to government. I thought, rather than try to deal with it in a totally general sense, because it is rather detailed and complex, as we go clause by clause I would certainly be prepared and would opt to say either we are agreeable to the amendment that you put forward, or if we disagree with your amendment - and we have a substitute for that - if that is the proper way to go about it. There is no intent to rush anybody or miss anything here. The intent is to have a full, detailed debate on the complexities of this bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: As I understand it, with respect to clause 2, for example, there was no difficulty with clause 2, but there was a 2.1 that was submitted as an amendment by the Opposition. So I am assuming that clause 2 is acceptable but you want to submit an amendment called 2.1. Is that correct?

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: My understanding is that there is a clause 2 in the bill and the Opposition has submitted a 2.1. Your amendment is 2.1. So I am assuming we are agreeable to clause 2 but we are going to be dealing in debate with your 2.1, which is an additional clause. I took that to mean that clause 2 would carry but when we come to your amendment, number 2.1, we would deal with that in due course; because government has some difficulty with your suggested amendment, 2.1.

CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Lewisporte.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I have no difficulty in what the Minister of Justice is saying.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. RIDEOUT: I have been known to have to stay after school many times, I say to my friend, the Deputy Premier, and if I have to go on my knees up in the corner, like were known to have been done in the good old days of corporal punishment, I will do it again.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible).

MR. RIDEOUT: We used to put the book over our heads so the teacher would not see what you were doing.

I divert, let me come back to clause 2. As I understand it, the Minister of Justice, the government has difficulty with the 2.1 purpose clause that was proposed by the Official Opposition. When we finish with clause 2 the government is going to propose something that is acceptable to the government, as 2.1. I say that because here is what the committee report says: the committee report makes comment - and this is Bill 49, on the purpose section. Not the committee report, I guess that is not exactly correct. It is the government evaluation of the thirty-five amendments that were put forward by the Leader of the Opposition, that was presented, I assume, by the minister or some official, to the committee.

I have to say upfront, Mr. Chairman, that I was not in a position to be able to attend any of those committee meetings, but my colleagues were there, and those who were there can speak for themselves. Here is what I understand the government position is as it relates to the new proposed section, 2.1. The government has said in its response - that the Opposition would like to add this purpose section. The government said this: generally, they avoid purpose sections. Generally, the government wishes to avoid purpose sections. There is one in our existing Freedom of Information Act - so says this note on the purpose section. Most other Canadian jurisdictions have them in their Freedom of Information Acts.

Here is the key part for the minister's consideration. I understand what the government has said in its official response. It is flexible on the purpose section but would reword the proposed (e). What we had proposed in 2.1(1) was the following: "The purposes of this Act are to make public bodies more accountable to the public and to protect personal privacy by (e) providing for an independent review of decisions made by public bodies under this Act and the resolution of complaints under this Act."

The government response to this, which I understand has been accepted by the committee, is that the government is flexible on that particular whole purpose section but they would reword the proposed section (e) to reflect the lack of order power. Does the minister have this? I think this is the right time for the minister to tell us what that flexibility is, what they have in their minds, and how they are going to go about saying: yes, we generally are not in favour of this purpose section, but we will accept it. We have to put in some wording here that takes care of a perceived problem, or a problem that the government perceives in section 2.1(1)(e).

Before I take my place, Mr. Chairman, and the minister responds, I want to briefly refer to the process of the amendments. As the minister said, and the committee report indicates, I believe the Official Opposition proposed thirty-five amendments to this draft Freedom of Information Act; to the bill that we are now debating in clause by clause. It says in the report that the government can accept or would propose variations thirteen of the thirty-five amendments. That, as I understand it, is the committee -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) we said thirteen of the amendments (inaudible).

MR. RIDEOUT: Well, this is what I am reading from here. Rejection of the remaining twenty-two is recommended. Is that correct? I say to the member who chaired the committee: rejection of the remaining twenty-two amendments is recommended. Here is what I understand to be the bottom line on the whole process that took place after this House rose for Christmas. Here is what I understand to be the bottom line on the thirty-five amendments proposed by the Official Opposition. If I am wrong - as I said up front, I did not attend the meetings, I could not attend the meetings - I will stand to be corrected. I am not about to say what I am about to say to put words in anybody's mouth, to embarrass, or to embellish in any way.

Here is what I understand to be the bottom line of the thirty-five amendments that were proposed by the Official Opposition. I understand that the government wholly accepts one of those proposals. One - and that is section 61(3) on restricting in-private court hearings, wholly accepts. I understand the government wholly accepts one out of thirty-five of the proposed recommendations or amendments, and that is on section 61(3) on restricting in-private court hearings. I understand that the government is committed to be flexible in amending another fourteen sections. Fourteen, plus the one they have accepted without any condition, is fifteen. The member who chaired the committee is nodding his head. I understand the government is committed to be flexible in amending another fourteen sections.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. RIDEOUT: That is right, the Chair. I understand that. You chaired the Resource Committee.

MR. E. BYRNE: A point of order, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: On a point of order, the hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Chair, I do not, in any way, mean to be unparliamentary, I want to be clear on that, but you were the Chair of this committee. I would just make a suggestion to the Government House Leader: may it not be advisable if somebody else were to chair this section? It has nothing to do with your ability to chair or not to chair; but, due to the fact that you were the Chair of the committee, maybe you will be able to answer some more questions and move forward. Would that not be advisable, in the interest of moving the agenda along? Because, if that is the case, what we could do, possibly, I say to my colleague and others, is, where there is agreement on certain amendments that we have proposed, let's deal with those first, and when there is disagreement, where a disagreement exists, then we can deal with those in a second grouping, if that would that be okay with the minister?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: I take it the justice critic is merely outlining what he perceives to be the government position vis--vis the amendments. From what I have heard so far, you are correct. There are thirty-five that were proposed back in December. Our assessment of it is that one is wholly acceptable, as you say, and fourteen we are prepared to be flexible on. As we get to each of these in turn, I think you have been provided with government's written response, or amendment to your amendment, showing where we are prepared to be flexible.

CHAIR: If it is the wish of the House, the Chair certainly has no difficulty in relinquishing the Chair to the Deputy Chair of Committees and answering any questions that I may be able to answer in my capacity as Chair of the Social Services Committee.

MADAM CHAIR (Ms Hodder): Shall clause 2 carry?

The hon. the Member for Lewisporte.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Madam Chairperson.

I wanted to make a few comments, or continue to make a few comments, on what I understand to have been accepted by the Social Services Committee when they met and considered Bill 49, the Access to Information Act, and what it is that the government is prepared to accept and what it is that they are not prepared to accept.

My understanding - and the minister confirmed my understanding a few minutes ago when he spoke - is that, out of the thirty-five amendments proposed by the Official Opposition, the government is prepared to accept, without condition, wholly without condition, one of those proposals, one of those proposed amendments. That was section 61(3) dealing with restricting in-private court hearings.

I understand further, Madam Chair - and the minister again, I believe, confirmed this in his response a few moments ago to my statement - I understand that the government is committed to being flexible in amending fourteen other sections of the act, fourteen other sections that were part of the proposed amendments submitted by the Official Opposition; but we note that this flexibility on those sections - we note, Madam Chair, that the government's flexibility on those fourteen sections does not necessarily adequately address the concerns that led us to originally propose the amendments as we proposed them. So the minister, in dealing with those fourteen sections where the minister, on behalf of the government, has indicated flexibility, the minister, in dealing with those areas of flexibility, will have to outline to us where it is and how it is that the government is proposing flexibility, and what the flexibility is, in words, in language, so that we will be able to debate why it is that the government cannot accept the position as articulated in our amendments, and what it is that is wrong about them or unacceptable about them, so that they can only accept them in part.

Those fourteen sections that I am referring to is our proposed new section 2.1 on purpose, the purpose clause of the legislation. Earlier in my comments, I outlined what the government had to say about not accepting that proposal, or that amendment as it was proposed.

Section 6 on fees for personal information, the government again has indicated they are willing to be flexible in amending that section, but they are not willing to accept the amendment in the way that it has been proposed by the Official Opposition.

AN HON. MEMBER: Why leave it to regulations? (Inaudible).

MR. RIDEOUT: Exactly, why leave it to regulations? We are talking about section 6(3) of the act, entitled Right of Access, and we were proposing to amend that section to ensure that no fee is charged to access your own personal information.

Madam Chair, that seems to be an eminently reasonable and sensible position, that, if you are accessing or asking the government for private, personal information that is in a government file belonging to me, that it is my information so why should I have to pay for it? That is all the Opposition was saying. The government is saying, in its response, that they are dealing with fees in regulations. They are saying that British Columbia and Nova Scotia deal with waiver in their act. Alberta and Manitoba only charge copying fees. They say we reject but commit to waiving fees in the regs. Well, if you reject but commit to waiving the fees in the regulations, I mean, a rose by any other name is still a rose, isn't it, Madam Chair? Why leave the flexibility of covering off that particular possibility by dealing with it in regulation? Why not accept the amendment that we proposed and have it taken care of? That is the end of it, and there is no more possibility of some future government dealing with it in regulation. They would have to come back to the Legislature. That is what it is all about. You would have to come back to the Legislature and have an amendment proposed to the legislation which would be open to public scrutiny, and which would be open to debate. That is if you wanted to do it rather than do it by the secrecy of regulations.

The government, in sections 8, 10, 16, 33 and 35, again indicate that they are prepared to be flexible but we will have to see what that particular flexibility is when we get to what the minister is proposing, Madam Chair.

Section 13, we were proposing to deal with: about-to-be-published information.

Section 19 -

PREMIER GRIMES: (Inaudible).

MR. RIDEOUT: If the Premier would only contain himself, if he would only hold onto himself and not wish to insert himself into debate at every opportunity, he might get the answer to his question. I understand that the Leader of the Opposition has some great interest.

AN HON. MEMBER: Look at what he just did.

MR. RIDEOUT: He is out doing what the Premier just did, yes, out talking to the media trying to convert the people of the Province. That is a legitimate role for the Leader of the Opposition, isn't it, just as it is a legitimate role for the Premier. So, if the Premier would hold onto himself, would contain himself, would simmer down and have a drink of cold water, in the fullness of time, the Leader of the Opposition will be gracing the Assembly with his wisdom on this particular matter.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. RIDEOUT: Madam Chair, if the Chair would protect me from the verbal onslaughts of the Premier, I will try to carry on. I will try to see if I cannot get through this. The more the Premier interrupts and interjects, the longer it is going to take; but, then again, it really doesn't matter to me.

MR. E. BYRNE: Tell him we made more progress on the legislation when he wasn't here the last time.

MR. RIDEOUT: Yes, that is true.

I wanted to carry on, Madam Chair, outlining the fourteen sections that I understand the government has indicated they are prepared to be flexible on, and in that context I assume they are proposing to submit not our amendments, because they said they rejected those, but they are prepared to be flexible on some form of an amendment. So I would assume, on those fourteen sections, at the end of the day the Minister of Justice will have a wording that the Committee will be able to consider. The minister nods in the affirmative. That being said, I will leave it at that.

Section 13 dealing with: about to be published information; section 19 dealing with internal efficiency reports; section 38 dealing personal information; section 44 dealing with time frame for reviews; section 60 dealing with appeal limitations on the Citizens' Representative; section 68 dealing with employee manuals, and section 72 dealing retroactive regulations. These are the fourteen sections, as I understand it, that the government has indicated they are prepared to be flexible on. They will be proposing amendments that do not necessarily mirror our proposed amendments in their totality, but they mirror something that is acceptable to the government. Now that makes fifteen, fourteen plus one, of our thirty-five amendments that government is prepared to address in some way. One with total acceptance and fourteen in some variation of their acceptance. We have to wait, Madam Chair, until we see those variations before we can say whether the variation is acceptable enough, went far enough, or did not go far enough, or whatever.

Having said that, Madam Chair, I think it should be noted that in rejecting twenty-two of the proposed amendments, the government has gone a long way to passing a piece of legislation that is not as strong or as effective as it could have been. The government, for example, is intent on leaving the Citizens' Representative in some of the amendments that they have refused to accept - proposed amendments, I suppose, is the proper way to say it. They are intent on leaving the Citizens' Representative powerless in certain instances. By rejecting the amendments that we proposed in section 2.1,12, 48, 49 and 67, then that is the effect of the government rejecting those amendments and not adopting any flexibility in those amendments. The effect is that the Office of the Citizens' Representative will, in those instances, be weaker than it should be, will be less effective than it should have been - well, it would be in the best interest of the people of the Province, I suppose, but not in the interest that it could have been if those amendments had been accepted, in some form, or acceptable to the government. Because the government has rejected the amendments proposed to section 38, 63 and 70, privacy concerns, which those amendments would deal with, are not a priority of the government. They are prepared to leave those privacy concerns hanging. They are not prepared to address those concerns in tightening up the legislation as we were proposing in the amendments to them.

In section 9, 12 and 30, Madam Chair, we were proposing amendments that would close loopholes, allowing the avoidance of disclosure, but the government, again in its wisdom, has refused to accept those particular amendments. These are a part of the twenty-two - now that the government will have nothing to do with, is what I am zeroing in on here, Madam Chair.

Obviously, internal reports, backgrounders and information on negotiations and administrative matters, which we propose to deal with in an amendment to section 23, is not acceptable. The government is not prepared to make it mandatory through legislation, that those internal reports be provided. The government does not want to accept an amendment that would deal with withholding legal opinions in section 20 and section 21, on decisions not to prosecute. The government is not prepared to commit itself, legislatively in statute, to doing those things.

Government, by refusing to accept amendments to sections 10, 15, and 47 are saying that they want the liberty to extend the access process. That is the bottom line in rejecting those amendments, Madam Chair, is that the government will retain unto itself the ability to extend the access process by rejecting the amendments to those particular sections.

By rejecting the amendments to sections 17, 18, and 22, government is saying they want longer time periods before documents are disclosed. They have not agreed with shortening up the time frame from ninety days to sixty days, in some cases. I believe forty-five was proposed in others; but in doing that, in rejecting those amendments to sections 17, 18, and 22, the government is saying: we are not prepared to accept it. We are more prepared to accept the long waits, the long time frames before documents have to be disclosed. But, talking out of that side of its mouth, the government is prepared, by rejecting an amendment to section 44, to accept the short time frames when it comes to appeals. They are not prepared to accept the shorter time frames when it comes to disclosure, but when it comes to the right of appeal a shorter time frame is acceptable; not the longer ones that we were proposing in an amendment to section 44.

The government, in refusing to accept amendments to sections 8, 9, 10, 16, 33 and 35, are saying, unequivocally, that they want to stop inquiries that they consider unreasonable because they refuse to accept the amendments to those particular actions.

I mentioned briefly, when I spoke on section 6 and also section 67, that government has indicated quite clearly in their response to our thirty-five amendments, in rejecting twenty-two of them out of hand, that they are wary of waiving fees. What does that mean, wary of waiving fees? The government have been looking to this particular piece of legislation as a way to be able to ring out and squeeze out of people every last, possible dollar that they can get their hands on. That is the signal that they are sending when they reject the amendments to sections 6 and 67. I suppose more frustrating, Madam Chairperson, is the wish of the government to use regulations to override legislative provisions. We were proposing that that be tightened up in section 5 and 3, in the context of the missing schedule or to substitute for legislative provisions in section 67.

The government seems intent on using regulations to override legislative provisions. They have refused to accept the draft amendments that we have proposed which would solve, would take away that nuisance, would take away that mischief and would make it such that, if the government wishes to change a legislative provision, Madam Chairperson, the right way for any government to do that is not by regulation override. The right way to do it is by legislative amendment in this Legislature so that the peoples' representative in this House, through a public process, the open Legislature, at least the people of the Province are made aware of it before it hits them between the eyes.

What happens with regulation, Madam Chairperson, is the people have no input into it, and the Legislature has no input into it. It is a secret process from government bureaucracy in the department to the Cabinet. The first time that people know about it is when the regulations are proclaimed under the act. The people get hit square between the eyes with a legislative change made by regulation that they did not have any ability to oppose or have input into until it is too late. Therefore, the use of legislative override by regulation, Madam Chairperson, is a very serious weakness that the government wants to maintain in the act. We will need the minister to use all his persuasive powers to persuade us why that should be the case. The minister has the responsibility to persuade the Legislature.

MADAM CHAIR: Order, please!

I remind the hon. member that his time is up.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Madam Chairperson. I will probably get back to this again.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: Madam Chair, just in response to those comments for the Justice critic. Again, the whole premise of Bill 49 is based, as was the title, in the Freedom of Information Review Committee's report based upon Striking a Balance. It is probably best to acknowledge upfront that there are substantial differences here between government's position and the amendments put forth. Most notably, the distinction between recommendations made by the Citizens' Representative versus an order power by the representative.

The amendments put forward by the Opposition that have been rejected, are being rejected because they are tied in with the Freedom of Information legislation that is based upon an order-power; and because this government, as a policy decision, has chosen the recommendation process rather than the power process, that is why it automatically leads to many of the other recommendations that have been put forward, because they make many of these recommendations based upon an act that is premised upon a Citizens' Representative having an order-power. I would like to make that clear, first of all.

Again - I see the Leader of the Opposition has returned now - we are quite prepared and suggest that probably the easiest, simplest way to deal with it is: there were thirty-eight recommendations put forward for amendments. As each section comes up, because there are some of these that we are acceptable to, there are others that we are flexible on, and we want to discuss and have debate on, and just so that nothing gets lost in the process we would suggest that you do it one by one. It would be much more orderly and people would be much better informed as we go through.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Madam Chair.

Just for clarification from the Minister of Justice, in areas where we have the recurring issue, the question of whether there is recommendation and/or order by the Citizens' Representative, I am just wondering how the Minister of Justice would propose that we deal with that, because it is a recurring problem all the way through. I only came in on the tail end of it, but I just want to get an idea of how you want to handle it. With matters that are tied to debate on the full issue of whether the Citizens' Representative has the right to order or recommend, how would you propose that we deal with the sections that are related to that?

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: All of those sections that we are rejecting, because your amendment is based upon a recommendation power, an order-power, whereas government's policy decision is that we are going to use a recommendation basis for the Citizens' Representative. If you want to suggest that a general argument starting off, or a debate as to why government ought not to have a recommendation verses an order-power, that if fine, however you wish to proceed with it.

I think that the pith and substance of the disagreements here will come down to those two basic premises: that the Opposition is suggesting that this bill ought to have an order paper, whereas government's decision is that it ought to be based upon recommendations. If you want to do it specifically for each section, fine, or generally, but that seems to be where things narrow down to, vis--vis your amendments verses the bill.

On motion, clause 2 carried.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: Madam Chair, just for the clarification and the assistance of everyone involved here, I think everyone has a copy of the list of amendments that was attached to the Social Services Committee report that was submitted.

It starts off saying: Reply of the Minister of Justice to Amendments Proposed by the Opposition. It is a one-page document, or at least it was attached to the Chairman's report, I believe. It is attached to the report of the committee.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, (inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: Okay, you have them listed in the report.

For clarification purposes, since we are going to be referring to this committee report, no doubt, as to what is agreeable or disagreeable, I just want to clarify, off the top, that section 37 references in that committee report is out of sync in terms of numbering. You notice, section 38 is referred to on page 1 of the report. The first page, it goes down through section 2, sections 8, 10, and so on, section 13, section 19, section 38, section 37.

Just for clarification, for numerical ordering there, section 37, of course, should be in front of section 38. Also, the committee report makes reference to section 62(3). That should be section 61(3). That was just a typo when the committee report was being prepared. I just say that for clarification.

MADAM CHAIR: I understand that everyone does not have a copy of this reply so we will recess for a few moments while we get a copy distributed.

AN HON. MEMBER: I understand (inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: Yes, that is correct.

All I had there was a sheet that basically was the same as the report. It is just all put on one page.

MADAM CHAIR: Okay, in that case we will continue.

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: I understand, Madam Chair, we will now be proceeding to what is identified as 2.1. That is an amendment put forward by the Opposition.

MADAM CHAIR: A new clause 2.1. Does 2.1 carry?

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: Government accepts 2.1 as submitted by the Opposition except for subsection (e); 2.1(e). I have circulated what government is prepared to be flexible on with regard to 2.1(e).

What has happened in essence is, from the Opposition amendment, we have deleted in subsection (e) the final words "and the resolution of complaints under this Act" has been deleted from the Opposition submission.

The reason we have deleted it is because that, again, is tied in with an act premised on an order-power, because we are dealing with an act here based upon a recommendation power, and to leave subsection (e) as currently worded implies that our Citizens' Representative would have an order-power. That is why government cannot agree with that last phrase in subsection (e). Other than that, we have no problem with the amendment as put forward by the Opposition.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Madam Chair.

The hon. minister raises the point, of course, of the whole question of the order-power of the Citizens' Representative, and I guess it is a question of whether we want to deal with that substantively in the section where it is properly dealt with. The problem, of course, that we get into is, as we approve these on the way through then we are accepting the principle on the way through. So, you know, that is where we are going to run into some difficulty.

The point that has been made is, obviously, that the position of the Opposition is that the legislation has no teeth as it applies to the Citizens' Representation, if, in fact, the Citizens' Representative does not have the power to order. That is a point that was made in some detail when we spoke in second reading of the act. I don't know if the point has already been made here prior to my entering back into the Legislature this afternoon.

We feel that it is very, very important that the Citizens' Representative does have the power to order, because if he does not, then the whole exercise is basically moot and a waste of time. So, the point can be made and then, as we move further on into the legislation, we can probably deal with it in more detail.

MADAM CHAIR: So, does this new provision, 2.1, as amended, carry?

On motion, new provision, 2.1, as amended, carried

On motion, clauses 3 and 4 carried.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall clause 5 carry?

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: I believe, with respect to clause 5, there has been an amendment put forward; 5(2).

On motion, clauses 5 through 7 carried.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall clause 8 carry?

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: With respect to section 8, government has submitted an amendment which has been circulated saying, we are agreeable to the Opposition amendment to section 8, except instead of using the words, make a reasonable effort, we are proposing, make every reasonable effort.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. WILLIAMS: Reasonableness is something I understand, as I am sure you do.

Madam Chair, the point that we make on this particular section is the question of reasonableness, and there is a question of the definition. The reason that we have asked to have this deleted, as the Minister of Justice is aware, is that the question becomes: What is a reasonable effort, and what is the definition of the term reasonable? It implies sort of a subjective assessment of what the criteria is for what is a reasonable effort. Is it in the mind of the minister? Is it in the mind of a staff person? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So who decides what is reasonable and what isn't?

I do acknowledge, though, that I do have some comfort level with the fact that the Minister of Justice has agreed to the wording "make every reasonable effort." My original feeling was that it should be deleted. I still have the same concern with regard to a definition of reasonableness, but I do think the fact that, "make every reasonable effort", is included strengthens it and I am comfortable with that.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall the amendment proposed by the Minister of Justice carry?

On motion, amendment carried.

On motion, clause 8, as amended, carried.

On motion, clause 9 carried.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall clause 10 carry?

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: Madam Chair, the same amendment is being put forward in this instance of clause 10 as was referred to in section 8, changing the words "make a reasonable effort" to "make every reasonable effort."

MADAM CHAIR: Shall clause 10 carry as proposed by the Minister of Justice?

On motion, amendment carried.

On motion, clause 10, as amended, carried.

On motion, clause 11 carried.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall clause 12 carry?

The hon. the Member for Lewisporte.

MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Madam Chairperson.

I think we are on clause 12, aren't we?

MADAM CHAIR: Yes, clause 12.

AN HON. MEMBER: Carried.

MR. RIDEOUT: They did not carry it. The authority, I say to the member, is the Chair. The member might try to take the House on his back, Madam Chairperson, but your back is stronger than his back when it comes to the rule book.

MR. TULK: (Inaudible)?

MR. RIDEOUT: I learned it in the same place you learned it, I say to the Deputy Premier. Our late colleague, Steve Neary, was not learned, but I tell you he was learned when it came to parliamentary scrutiny. He would be very concerned, Madam Speaker, the late Steve Neary would be very concerned about this particular clause 12 that the government is proposing to reject amendments to today.

What does clause 12 say, as proposed by the government? It says the following, "The head of a public body may refuse to disclose a record or part of a record where the request is repetitive or incomprehensible or is for information already provided to the applicant."

MR. TULK: Where is that?

MR. RIDEOUT: Section 12, I say to my friend, the Deputy Premier. He has so many titles I do not know what to call him, so I will call him the Deputy Premier. He knows who he is anyway.

Clause 12: The purpose of the proposed amendment, Madam Chairperson, was to have the Citizens' Representative, not the head -

MR. TULK: I had longer than you.

MR. RIDEOUT: Yes, you did by a few months. I do not mind admitting that. The present Premier will have it longer than I had it as long as he is afraid to go to the people, Madam Chairperson. I don't mind that at all.

- have the Citizens' Representative, not the department head or CEO, make the decision whether requests can be refused is repetitive or incomprehensible.

Madam Chairperson, as the proposed law stands in front of us now, it is the department head who is going to determine whether a request is incomprehensible or is repetitive, and on that basis refuse to provide the information to the applicant.

What we are questioning here, Madam Chairperson: Is that an appropriate decision for the department head to be able to make without any recourse to somebody having a look at it? That is all that the proposed amendment from the Opposition was talking about, was that the Citizens' Representative should have the opportunity to be able to review whether or not a department head, in rejecting a request for disclosure, was rejected it on the basis of it being incomprehensible or was rejecting it on the basis of it being repetitive. What would be wrong with the Citizens' Representative being able to review the reason for the denial of the request?

By leaving it as it is, the minister is weakening what would otherwise be, I believe, a strengthening of this particular legislation, and the government, if they want to be bullheaded, will do it. At the end of the day, they will do it.

Those amendments were put forth, before Christmas of last year, in the hope that government would see some sense in having a person, like the Citizens' Representative, who is the person we identified, being able to review the role of the department head in rejecting the request.

For example, in the legislation in Alberta, it is my understanding that a department head must apply to the Citizens' Representative for permission to disregard certain requests. Government should have to assist applicants to make the requests comprehensible. Citizens often do not know what information it is and how to put it in the form that is comprehensible, or some citizens do not.

So, what is wrong with taking the approach that we are going to be as flexible as possible and not throw out anything that would take away from the right of a person to access a request, to make sense out of a request and not have it thrown out because it is incomprehensible or because it is repetitive in the view of a department head. Why not have that subject to some kind of review by somebody, whose responsibility it is and whose job it is to protect the interests of the citizens.

Now, is that a difficult concept, Madam Chair? I do not think so. I do not think that is difficult to wrap our minds around at all.

MADAM CHAIR: The Hon. the Member for Kilbride.

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Madam Chair.

I stand to reiterate the point on section 12 that my colleague from Lewisporte has just talked about. The minister's response is pretty clear as to what he says to our amendment. What is being suggested is that the Citizens' Representative make the decision, and we are rejecting this, because, again, that is said on the assumption that you are going to allow your Citizens' Representative to have order-powers whereas our model is based on the Citizens' Representative having recommendation abilities, not order-powers.

He says, Madam Chair, that the Opposition's comments are very relevant and correct, if you are in order-power jurisdictions, but recommendation jurisdictions is not there. It does not make any sense whatsoever. The Cabinet reserves the right exclusively in other areas, that if they do allow, as they have done in Alberta for example - and the point needs to be reiterated and made again strongly, I think. For example, in the Alberta model, it is open to abuse as it currently exists in our view. In Alberta, a head of a department must apply to the Citizens' Representative for permission to disregard certain requests. Correct? Government should, in our view, to the extent that they can, assist, supply and help citizens in the filing of requests.

In our view - and I would like the minister's comments on this. This is not an unreasonable amendment. In our view, it strengthens the legislation as put forward under Bill 49. I am certainly interested to hear what the Minister of Justice and Attorney General for the Province has to say in rebuttal to the commentary and the suggestions that we have put forward on this particular section.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: Madam Chair, in response to those comments: Government is not prepared to accept the recommendation put forward regarding section 12. Section 12 is very clear. It is a discretionary section. "The head of a public body may refuse to disclose a record or part of a record where the request is repetitive or incomprehensible...."

We start, first of all, from the premise that the person who wants the application has done it repetitively or has not made the request comprehensible. That is the basic underlying premise in section 12. The department head, if it is incomprehensible or repetitive, as a discretion, may refuse to divulge the information for either of those reasons, that is repetitive or incomprehensible.

If the applicant is not satisfied with the answer of the department head, that applicant, under this Act, will have a right to appeal to the Citizens' Representative. The Citizens' Representative can then come back to the department head, and that is the role of the CR or the Ombudsman, to play that mediation role, to come back to the department head to say: what made you think that this was repetitive, what is incomprehensible about this request? That is the purpose of the Citizens' Representative. If it cannot be resolved between the Citizens' Representative and the department head, the Citizens' Representative can recommend to government that: I have reviewed this situation, mediation did not work, I am not satisfied with that, and I am recommending that government overrule the department head and release the information. Then government has to make an answer, a response. It does not end with the department head saying, you are not getting it because it is repetitive or it is incomprehensible.

Furthermore, if government does not accept the recommendation of the Citizens' Representative, the Citizens' Representative has a further option. He can take it to court on behalf of the applicant. A power that never existed before, that intermediary step of having a Citizens' Representative, who, at the expense of government, if government refuses someone's recommendation, that Citizens' Representative can take the matter to the Supreme Court of this Province at the expense of this government, saying: the government refused my recommendation. Would you again further review and decide: was this person's request repetitive or incomprehensible?

There are checkpoints here along the way. There are checks and balances. Again, I tie this into our comments about the model used. The Opposition House Leader made reference to the section in Alberta. He is absolutely correct, because Alberta is a model that is based upon an order-power. It comes back again to this government having made a conscious decision that we do not need the order-power there in section 12. The power of the Citizens' Representative, through his power to recommend in the court of public opinion, and everyone of his recommendations goes into the court of public opinion, it is not between the Citizens' Representative on behalf of a resident and a government in secrecy, it is done by the Citizens' Representative in public. In fact, Bill 49 requires that every time the Commissioner, or the Representative, makes a recommendation to government and it is rejected, the details must be tabled in this House. What more authority and scrutiny is there for a government than to have a Citizens' Representative filing a report in this House, or anytime publicly that he wishes, saying government did not follow my recommendation. You people talked about openness and transparency, but look what they did. They did not follow the recommendation. That is where the proof is in the pudding. That is where the proof is going to be as to whether government's mantra of openness and accountability and transparency is going to be.

You need only one incident where the Citizens' Representative comes out and says: government has rejected what I recommended to them. That is a very crucial, essential piece that I would submit the Opposition have missed there in the bulk of these recommendations. Before, when a citizen of this Province did not get the right answer, he or she had to, at their own expense, fish into their own pocket to go to the Supreme Court Trial Judge to get some kind of answer for themselves. This government has said: enough of that. If the citizens of this Province cannot get the information, we are prepared, as a Province, to pay if need be. If we cannot get it resolved by a Review Commissioner, we are prepared to pay on behalf of that person to have that go to a Supreme Court Judge.

Again, not only the Opposition House Leader referring to Alberta, in my presentation to the House committee I referred as well to where the various amendments, that have been put forward, are coming from. I do not know if this particular one came from Alberta, B.C. or Quebec. Regardless of where it came from, all three of those provinces are based upon the model of order-power. That is not the premise here. I realize that the Opposition and the government agreed, have disagreed, and will continue to disagree on having a model here that is recommendation verus power. But, any amendment that has been put forward that tries to accomplish an order-power model scenario is contrary to what the policy is, adopted by this government. That is why we are seeing differences here, but the protections are there for the individual. You cannot jump and talk about order-power and the lack of it when you look at section 12 without giving it a fair, reasonable interpretation. It is based on the premise that it is repetitive or incomprehensible. There are a lot of checks and points here that you have to get to before you even get into considering who has power to order whom to do what. Don't get clouded in the intricacies of any particular section as to what it means or does not mean and give it an unreasonable interpretation. The whole premise of this act is disclosure, disclosure, disclosure.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Madam Chair.

There is nobody getting clouded on this side of the House in terms of what is being reasonable or what is not being reasonable. The purpose of this stage of the bill is to discuss in detail, clause by clause, the recommendations and amendments that we have put forward. In the clause by clause detail, it is not about being clouded or unreasonable. It is about trying to strengthen the piece of legislation that you say is before the House, and that is what we are attempting to do now.

We have a difference of opinion. The government says that it is better for the Citizens' Representative to have the power to recommend. We say that it is much better for the Citizens' Representative to have the power to order. Now that is where we see it. The proof is not in the pudding. The proof is in the eating of the pudding, I say to the Minister of Justice, and that is the difference in terms of what we recommending here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Now, based upon that premise, there are some amendments - and we will go through them, we are at section 12 right now. Throughout the course of this bill you can continue to refer to that substantive difference in terms of your government's philosophy related to this piece of legislation - in terms of it's your view and your government's philosophy, and the policy of the government dealing with freedom of information and privacy of protection - that from the Citizens' Representative view point and other view points, that it is your belief that the power of recommend should be the prevailing view point, but that is not the only view point.

It is our belief, in this particular piece of legislation - and we will go through it thoroughly clause by clause - that the prevailing view point should be that the Citizens' Representative has the power to order. What is the difference? It is a major difference. Who decides what the definition of incomprehensible is? Who decides what the definition of repetitive is? Does it mean that I, as a citizen, who sends three requests today on a particular piece of information, that a particular government department head says: no, that is too repetitive. We have already said no. Does it mean that a citizen or a person of the Province who applies to another department head has to do it six or seven times before it is considered repetitive? What about we are looking for information surrounding negotiations related to, for example, Alcoa, which meet the definition of what you can bring forward here right now. Who decides? Is it you, minister, who decides that what we have asked for is incomprehensible, therefore we are not going to provide it? What about next week we looked for information from the Minister of Environment and asked the Minister of Environment to provide information, for example, on arsenic to a particular community, arsenic levels in water, does that minister then decide what is incomprehensible? That is the difference that we are trying to make and the point that we are trying to make in terms of philosophy. The power to order eliminates any potential for abuse from department to department, from department head to department head. That is point that we are trying to make, and that is the point with clause 12 and some of the other amendments which we will get through.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: Madam Chair, I accept that the point is being made, and I respect the point that is being made, but we disagree with the point that is being made and we are not prepared to recommend acceptance of that recommendation.

On motion, clause 12 carried.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall clause 13 carry, as amended?

Oh, I am sorry.

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: There is an amendment put forward, Madam Chair, I believe, by the Opposition here requesting that the change be from ninety days to forty-five days. We have no difficulty with that amendment that has been put forward.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall clause 13, as amended, carry?

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. WILLIAMS: Section 13, which we propose to amend, says, "The head of a public body may refuse to disclose a record or part of a record that (a) is published, and available for purchase by the public; or (b) is to be published or released to the public within 90 days after the applicant's request is received."

Section 13(2) says, "The head of a public body shall notify an applicant of the publication or release of information that the head has refused to give access to under paragraph (1)(b)."

Section 13(3) says, "Where the information is not published or released within 90 days after the applicant's request is received, the head of that public body shall reconsider the request as if it were a new request received on the last day of that period, and access may not be refused under paragraph (1)(b)."

The amendment that has been proposed by the Opposition recommends that we delete the words and numeral "within 90 days" and substitute 45 days. There is also an amendment proposed in subsection 3 which suggests that by adding in subsection 3 immediately before the period a comma and the words "but the total time for the reconsideration of a request under this subsection shall not exceed thirty days". So, there are two parts to the amendment. Do I understand from the Minister of Justice that only the first part of that amendment is acceptable?

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: Madam Chair, again the original number of ninety days, one canvases the provinces as was done by the committee. There is a variety of dates or times there. Some say thirty, some say forty-five, some say sixty, some say ninety. We do not have any difficulty with either of the date changes, the time limits that are proposed for section 13.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall clause 13, as amended, carry?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Carried.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall clause 14 carry?

The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: We are agreeable to the amendment put forward with respect to changing ninety days to forty-five days.

MADAM CHAIR: We are back on clause 13?

MR. PARSONS: We are not agreeable with respect to the publication of the material in ninety days, in your subsection 3, again because we feel, in that case, that ninety days is reasonable for dealing with the publication of material. Various jurisdictions have used various timelines. We are not being extraordinary here. Some use thirty, some sixty, some forty-five and some ninety. We thought again, as a policy, to allow a reasonable period of time to publish information would be ninety days.

Section13(1) makes reference to: ninety days would be amended to forty-five days. Subsection 13(1)(b) makes reference to ninety days. We are agreeable to forty-five instead of ninety there, but in section 13(3) we are not agreeable to changing any dates. It says ninety in there as well. We want it stay at ninety in subsection 3.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. WILLIAMS: Basically the problem here, what we are getting into, is the repetition of the time period, to try and shorten the time periods here. So the reason for the thirty-day recommendation from ninety days, before we had a ninety plus a ninety, to get into. Now we are trying to reduce it down to a thirty day. Would the minister be agreeable to having that time period at forty-five days, as a compromise?

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: Ninety is quite proper here.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: Clarification on that point again, Madam Chair. I will see if we can get this right this time.

In section 13(1)(b), we are agreeable to forty-five days instead of ninety days. In subsection 3, where it says in the first line of subsection 13(3), "Where the information is not published or released within 90 days..." we are prepared to change that ninety to forty-five, but the reference in your amendment does not talk about the times. It says, "but the total time for the reconsideration of a request under this subsection shall not exceed 30 days."

MADAM CHAIR: Shall clause 13 carry, as proposed by the minister?

On motion, amendment carried.

On motion, clause 13, as amended, carried.

On motion, clause 14 carried.

MADAM CHAIR: Shall clause 15 carry?

The hon. the Member for Kilbride.

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Madam Chair.

Again, clause 15 deals with the extension of time limit. For the record, it says, "The head of a public body may extend the time for responding to a request for up to an additional 30 days where

(a) the applicant does not give sufficient details to enable the public body to identify the requested record;

(b) a large number of records is requested or must be searched, and responding within the time period in section 10 would interfere unreasonably with the operations of the public body; or

(c) notice is given to a third party under section 27."

Now, our view, Madam Chair, is that this section should also - we reject this section. We have suggested that we delete the provision allowing a head to extent the time limit for responding in order to avoid unreasonable interference with operations of the public body.

The government has said that they reject this, they reject the amendments we have put forward. Our view - and I am interested in hearing the Minister of Justice elaborate on this section in particular. We believe, yet once again, that this section, section 15, provides the opportunity - and we have seen it time and time again. Because this new legislation comes into force and effect when it is passed does not mean that all things are going to be right and rosy. The devil is always in the details when it comes to legislation, interpretations of legislation that may vary from department to department, interpretations of legislation that may vary from minister to minister, and it is our view that it is open for abuse.

I am interested to hear the Minister of Justice elaborate on this section, and based upon what he says we may have more to say on it.

MADAM CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: I certainly hope that it does not get abused by any department head.

The reasons given there for allowing the extension seem to be very reasonable and clear. For example, in subsection 15.(1)(a), "the applicant does not give sufficient details to enable the public body...", that seems to be very fair. That is not anybody's fault. It was a case of, if they didn't have enough information from the applicant to go get the information in the first place. So that seems to be a reasonable circumstance when you give someone an extension; they didn't tell you clearly enough what it was they wanted.

Secondly, where "a large number of records is requested or must be searched, and responding within the period of time in section 10 would interfere unreasonably with the operations of the public body," I mean again reasonableness is the key here. I guess someone has to determine it, and if we are not satisfied with the reasonableness definition adopted by the department head, ultimately the CR is there for that purpose. Surely, someone can swamp an administration, any administration, simply by making an FOI request so large that you shut down the administration, because you wouldn't have enough bodies to go get all the information that they wanted, depending upon the nature of the request.

So the abuse can be either way. You can have someone who might inundate government with enough FOI requests that you just don't have enough public servants available to compile the information without interfering with the administration of government. So the approach that is taken here is: Let's allow a reasonable extension if you can't get it together. We are suggesting that allowing a thirty-day extension is not such a bad idea.

Again, we are not inventing the wheel here. In this particular case the federal government, Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, all allow for a similar provision of time. We think this is not something that we fetched out of the sky. It is quite reasonable and being used in several other jurisdictions.

CHAIR (Mercer): The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Chairman, section 15(1) says: "The head of a public body may extend the time for responding to a request for up to an additional 30 days where..." under three circumstances, "(a) the applicant does not give sufficient details to enable the public body to identify the requested record." Reasonable, no doubt about that, no problem with that.

Subsection "(b) a large number of records is requested or must be searched, and responding within the time period in section 10 would interfere unreasonably with the operations of the public body; or (c) notice is given to a third party under section 27."

Mr. Chair, the issue here - to the Minister of Justice - is subsection (b). That is the section which we have asked to have deleted. The reason is - and I sympathize with the issue here in the sense that you just cannot have voluminous amounts of records being requested and unreasonable requests. The problem is, what is a large number? How do we define, what is a large number of records? Again, it is subjective. Who defines unreasonably? The concern is, somebody can be rejected on the basis that it is a large number of records. Now, is that five pieces of paper, is it 500 pieces of paper, or is it 5,000 pieces of paper? That is the problem. It is the vagueness of that particular section. Who decides?

Again, the issue of unreasonably; in whose opinion is it unreasonable? I know what the minister is trying to accomplish here, and I do sympathize. However, a vague section like that leaves a discretion that can be abused. That is the point.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Chair, again, this is going to be a case where the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We cannot look at section 15(1) in isolation. This is premised on the fact that if someone asked, and the department head does not respond, that the applicant is left with recourse so that you do not get unreasonable extensions of time. The department head, under this act, Bill 49, cannot just willy-nilly say: I am taking thirty days, or not even tell a person that they are taking thirty days.

Under subsection 2 it says very clearly, and I think this is where the check is, to make sure that we achieve the balance. It says: "Where the time limit for responding is extended under subsection (1), the head of the public body shall notify the applicant in writing of (a) the reason for the extension; (b) when a response can be expected; and (c) that the applicant can make a complaint under section 43 to the Citizens' Representative about the extension."

You do not get department heads exercising their discretion without any balance and checks here. It says very clearly, by law, what the department head has to do if they give an extension. They cannot sit on it willy-nilly. They have a positive response that they have to take to the applicants. That is the whole purpose of this section, to keep it flowing. If you request thirty days as your general rule - if they cannot do it for one of the legitimate reasons in 15(1), you can go up to thirty days extension, but if you do, you are required, by law, to tell the applicant why you need it and when you are going to give it to them. If you are not satisfied with that, the applicant can go to the Citizens' Representative again. The whole process, I think, is very good when it talks about reasonable time limits for disclosure. We do have those constraints on reasonableness because, I think, subsection (2) gives it.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. WILLIAMS: The problem here, and the issue that I went through before, is time frames, time limits. Any time anybody gets an extension, then you have to see where it ends up. If I remember correctly, and I would have to check, the last time we went through it the time periods could be extended, if you decided to go to court, for up to a year. Here we have an extension. So, yes, there are checks and balances, and yes, you can go to the Citizens' Representative but the Citizens' Representative is toothless. He cannot order. He can make a recommendation. Then what we have to do is wait for the Citizens' Representative to come back to the House with his report at the end of the year. If he makes a report and indicates where there are problems or he has run into problems, he tables it to the House and then it becomes public. Just like the Auditor General does. It makes you accountable. It is supposed to make you accountable, but then you could become the least accountable government in the country when it comes to Freedom of Information requests. So it is all about shortening time frames and making sure that you deliver, because otherwise, you just use the system to procrastinate and go on, and on and on, and defer; and information needs to be timely.

I think in some of the reports that I read here - I think it might have been your own presentation to the committee - 85 per cent of requests are from the media. Therefore, if they are from the media, media needs information on a timely basis. This is a stalling mechanism. If the head of the public body decides that the request is too large, or it is unreasonable, that is it. You are on the treadmill. You just keep going. You go into the time periods. You go into the appeals. You go to the Citizens' Representative and if he can't do anything - he makes his recommendation, nobody listens to him, he publishes his report - we have no accountability.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Chair, I must respond again because this is the total opposite of a stalling tactic that has been alluded to. There is no intent here to stall. If anybody gives a reasonable meaning to this section15, both subsection 1 and 2, you cannot possibly come to that conclusion.

One of the items that was referred to, or matters referred to in the committee report - I think this is very crucial as to understanding this bill as well and the underpinnings of it. Besides the mantra of where this government is going in terms of openness, accountability and transparency, we are creating, in some cases here, something that never existed before. You have to assume, and a reasonable person would assume, that number one, you have your House in order in terms of the ability to even give the information. That is to access it.

It is one thing to allow the citizens of this Province to be able to access information that is in the possession of government but a problem we have and a difficulty we have, which is part of this exercise, is the information management systems of this Province. This is not something that occurred with this Administration. It is a fact of life, that since 1949 governments have grown, and departments have grown. The information today that is contained in government is voluminous, massive. The ability to even access that information is a practicality, and that is why we need some reasonable time periods. As I say, we are not inventing a new wheel here. I do not think these other provinces and the federal government stalled when they put it in legislation. The federal government, Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan, all have a similar provision, for very practical reasons. You cannot always - even the physical part of getting the information. It may be in a basement somewhere that you just physically have to go down in the files because we do not have our information management systems up to scratch.

That is the other big, beneficial piece or spinoff that comes from this piece of legislation, because in order to proceed with this FOI, government has made a commitment here that we have to have a better information management system. Yes, it will cost millions of dollars probably, but that is a commitment that this Administration had to make in order to have a good, sound, Freedom of Information piece of legislation. It is no good to say you can have access if the people who work in the system do not know where it is. That is why I think having an extension of thirty days, particularly in the initiation of this bill, and its initial starting, the first couple or two or three years trying to get your information and management systems up to scratch, is going to be crucial.

On motion, clause 15 carried.

CHAIR: Shall clause 16 carry?

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. WILLIAMS: That is another section that has the "every" word attitude, "make every reasonable effort to". Is that correct? If that amendment is satisfactory, then we would be in agreement with it.

MR. PARSONS: We are acceptable to "make every reasonable effort".

On motion, amendment carried.

On motion, clause 16, as amended, carried.

CHAIR: Shall clause 17 carry?

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Section 17 is interesting in terms of what deals with Exceptions to Access, Part III of the legislation. We put forward some amendments that we believe, as a caucus, would have strengthened this particular section. For example, Mr. Chair, the issue of time limit. Government feels twenty years is reasonable in terms of what - I say to the Minister of Justice, I would like to know the rationale; I guess the explanation would be telling - the rationale behind picking twenty years as opposed to what we have recommended, ten years, of what would be reasonable to expect government to put forward, based upon a request coming from a particular information request.

All you have indicated, all government has indicated and the minister has indicated, and I am certainly open to hear if there is any more than this, that government just feels the twenty-year limit is reasonable. It has not provided an explanation in detail, and certainly this is the Minister of Justice and Attorney General's opportunity to enlighten us in terms of why twenty years is reasonable and not ten, as we have suggested.

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Chair, this is, I believe, a far cry from what existed. Again, I say that because there was nothing before. There was never any requirement in the Province of Newfoundland, under our former Freedom of Information legislation, for any government to reveal anything if it happened ten, fifteen, forty, or fifty years ago. This government has made a major step forward in saying that there will come a time limit when what you do in Cabinet, albeit in confidence, there is a reasonable period of time upon which it should be released.

Again, it is a policy decision - I cannot overemphasize that enough - of this Administration that matters of Cabinet confidence should be in place for twenty years. This, in fact, was one of the recommendations put forward by our own committee that we are rejecting. They recommended fifteen years, but as a policy decision this government feels that an appropriate period of time is twenty years. Again, we are not creating a new standard of picking things out of the air.

Ontario, for example, has twenty years. The various jurisdictions in the country do vary. Nova Scotia, I believe, has fifteen; some have twenty-five. Manitoba, I believe, has twenty-five or thirty years. There is another one with twenty-five. We have not picked any outer limit, or inner limit. We picked what we felt was very appropriate and again reasonable, as a matter of reason.

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Chairman, the question is unanswered. On what basis do you feel that twenty years, or how did you arrive at the twenty years when your own committee suggested fifteen, for example, other than you have said that we feel that it is reasonable? A feather pillow feels good, a feather bed feels good, but on what basis did you cherry-pick the twenty years? That is the question, and that is the question that is posed to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, that he has not answered other than to say: We feel it is reasonable. We felt twenty years was good.

Why did you feel twenty years was good and not fifteen, ten, twenty-five or thirty? On what basis, is what I am asking the minister, in discussions surrounding within the Cabinet, certainly, and within caucus, did you pick the twenty-year basis, the twenty-year rule for non-disclosure? On what basis did you come to that conclusion? Certainly all of the Cabinet did not sit around discussing the merits and the demerits of this particular section of the act and say: We all feel good with twenty years. We all feel like that is the best thing to do; and everyone went aye and no one went nay. That is not the basis on which you make decisions. Surely, it is not.

All I am asking, and I will ask it again to the minister: What was the rationale upon which you rejected your own committee's recommendation of fifteen years and felt so good about twenty years? What was the rationale behind that decision?

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Chair, I certainly will not comment on anything that happened in Cabinet, of course, because that is a Cabinet confidence, which is exactly what we are dealing with here.

Suffice it to say, from the government's perspective -

MR. E. BYRNE: (Inaudible) twenty years to find out.

MR. PARSONS: You will have to wait twenty years to find out.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. PARSONS: Different administrations have come to different timelines for different reasons. The reason, of course, is always based upon: What do you feel is an appropriate period of time when what you do in Cabinet - which, of course, is in the strictest of confidence - should become the subject of public disclosure? It is not a really brain-racking exercise. You pick a date as to what you feel is reasonable. This Administration -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: Well, you can ask the same question. The Opposition House Leader asked about the rationale. Again, I guess, we can ask: What was the rationale of the committee picking fifteen, or Nova Scotia picking ten? The group that exercises the policy decisions have made a decision here - the same as in Ontario, but we do not want to go as long as they went in Manitoba. We picked a figure, and that figure is twenty years. That is what we feel, as an Administration, is reasonable.

CHAIR: The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Just for the purposes of the people of the Province, just so they understand the section that we are talking about here, I am going to go through the section.

Section 17(1) states that, "The head of a public body shall refuse to disclose to an applicant information that would reveal the substance of deliberations of Cabinet...." So, the head of the public body can refuse to disclose, to a person who wants the information, the substance of deliberations of the Cabinet, the people who run the government. "....including advice, recommendations, policy considerations or draft legislation or regulations submitted or prepared for submission to the Cabinet."

Subsection (2) of that says unless in has been in existence for 20 years. So, yes, you can have it but in twenty years time, when we are long gone and everybody else is gone and nobody really cares and it is too late to even make a difference. That is what this particular section says.

The other subsection, 17.(2)(b), says, "information in a record of a decision made by the Cabinet on an appeal under an Act." What the Opposition is proposing here under our amendments is "information in a record that has been in existence for ten years". So we are saying, take that twenty-year time frame and cut it in half.

This government is talking about an open and accountable and a transparent government. Give all the information to the people, let them know. What are we trying to hide? Government is making decisions on behalf of the people and the people have a right to know why they made those decisions, rightly or wrongly. If they are wrong decisions and they cost the people of this Province a lot of money, then the people of the Province have a right to know. Why should it be pushed off for twenty years so that the people have forgotten about it or it does not count?

Maybe if we had the reasons a long time ago for the Upper Churchill, maybe we would understand what went wrong. Maybe if we had the reasons for Friede Goldman, we might understand what went wrong. Maybe if we had the reasons for the fact that the Premier was going to send bulk water out of the Province we might understand what went wrong.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, you wouldn't.

MR. WILLIAMS: Do you know why I wouldn't? Because he did not know whether it was viable or not. That is why I wouldn't understand. He never bothered to check out the economic viability.

So the people have a right to know what their government is doing. Why should they have to wait twenty years? What the Opposition is saying, Mr. Chair, on this particular amendment is, give it to them in ten years. It is going to be open, it is information that the people need to know. A very, very reasonable recommendation.

As well, we are also saying that information in a record, the purpose of which is to present background explanations or analysis to the Cabinet, or any of its committees, for its consideration in make a decision, if the decision has not been made public, but five years have passed - now that was suggested, I understand, in committee, that the City of St. John's pointed out in other jurisdictions, that they had moved to release background material. I think that is correct, Mr. Minister, that in BC, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Australia, they moved to release background material. I think the Williams Commission in Ontario - no relative, by the way - recommended exactly the same. So we think this is a reasonable request to a government that holds itself out as open and accountable and transparent and informative. I think it is a reasonable request.

CHAIR: The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER GRIMES: Mr. Chairman, I just wanted to point out, again, as the Minister of Justice is indicating in the debate on these issues, this piece of legislation is about providing information. It is about providing information in a reasonable structured manner. It provides a new standard for Newfoundland and Labrador that we have never had before in our history.

Mr. Chair, there is a former Premier, sitting as one of the learned friends of the Leader of the Opposition now. I thought he was learned before, certainly in the parliamentary sense, but he is doubly learned now, I guess. He would understand the whole notion of Cabinet secrecy and private meetings. Town councils use them. I understand the Leader of the Opposition was against that before, before Christmas when he tried to talk about this as being secret meetings, as if there was something wrong with it. He has always got this innuendo that there is something wrong.

The only person in Newfoundland and Labrador that is above doing anything wrong is the Leader of the Opposition. Because he is supposedly rich and wealthy and learned, he wouldn't do anything wrong. He is above reproach, but the rest of us are willing to be bought, the rest of us are willing to be sneaky. So he insults everybody in the Legislature, Mr. Chair, every single day. He abuses our privileges every single day, because the inference and the innuendo is that everybody else wants to be secretive, everybody else could possibly be bought, everybody else could do something wrong. That is what is in his every word, every day. Every word, every day, that is what he gets at. Mr Chair, the difference is this: The results of even a Cabinet meeting are public because the government goes out and tells the people of the Province what it is doing and then the rationale is also given. The government goes out and tells the people of the Province why they did it.

What is protected here, Mr. Chairman, is that the background information - it is the same reason that Cabinets do not have their meetings televised. The Premier of British Columbia is brave, he is having televised Cabinet meetings for select items. That is openness. But, I can suggest to you, just like in the caucus of the Opposition, just like in the caucus of the NDP, just like in our caucus and anywhere in the parliamentary system, there are things that people are willing to say and want to say and want to have an opportunity to say them privately amongst themselves before you determine what it is collectively you are going to say publicly.

Mr. Chairman, if we had a ten-year rule, which they are proposing now, guess what? All the details of the Sprung Greenhouse, that the former Premier was in, where they did not open the House for eighteen months, where they did every decision by a Special Warrant, would now be completely and totally in the public domain; and maybe it is a good thing. I do not think we are any better served by that because everybody in the Province has already passed their judgement on that issue. They knew enough of the information. They knew the details.

Mr. Chairman, the whole inference is that there is something wrong, that you should not have opportunities to have private discussions because there is nothing that can stay shielded from the people of the Province. The people of the Province will demand, rightfully so, to know what you are doing and why you are doing it. But, it is a difference standard to suggest that every piece of information, every word that is said, every recommendation that is made in private meetings, which caucuses use, not only the government, which councils use, which every organization has used - I participated with the teachers' union. They have a group called table officers that meet before the regular executive meetings, they have what is called an in-camera session. Did you ever heard of it? An in-camera session. Guess what it means? There are some things they would like to say privately, amongst themselves, before they decide what else they are going to say publicly to their membership, to their teachers, to the people they are there to serve. Their only interest is to serve. They are challenged everyday to say what the results are and provide it publicly.

Again, we have a typical example of an inference that somebody is trying or wants to hide something when the exact opposite and reverse is the very substance of this piece of legislation and all of its clauses; that, for the first time in the history of the Province, there is going to be a mandated, an absolutely mandated, statement that says: you must provide it into the public domain at some point in time, whereas before you could shield it forever and a day.

It is a brand new standard. It is a bold and brave step forward. It reflects the Canadian average in terms of what is happening, and it will be leading-edge legislation in all of Canada. We are very, very proud of it, and I do get a little bit perturbed at times with the Leader of the Opposition, who continually wants to suggest that this bill which is here to open up information is about protecting information, when it is, in fact, the exact total opposite, Mr. Chairman.

Maybe it will take us another three, four or five days to go through the work because - again, every now and then I do make a political comment - the Opposition House Leader said that our caucus has dealt with these amendments, and our caucus support these views. Well, I am not one to spread rumours but I know people in that caucus who do not know a word about some of these things, and have never been involved in the drafting of them and do not know what they contain. So you can stand up, I guess, and talk about whether certain members would want to jump up and talk about how much they were involved in this particular amendments, how much they debated them, and how committed they are to them, because a few of the learned colleagues over there might have been involved but the caucus has to answer for itself, Mr. Chairman.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear1

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Chairman, we can accommodate the Premier's request, and once we do, tomorrow or Thursday he will be up saying how obstructionist we all were because we accommodated his request about debating legislation. He is under some pressure. Touchy, very, very touchy. He didn't answer the question.

AN HON. MEMBER: The real leader (inaudible).

MR. E. BYRNE: The real leader is sitting right here, Sir, and every member of this caucus supports the real leader of this party, right to my left, including this member right here. I am not going to let that innuendo go unchallenged in this Legislature, outside this Legislature, or any part of this Province, by the rumour monger whom we just saw himself.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Chairman, I say to the Premier, with respect to his own document, under Cabinet Confidences, it says: Cabinet confidence exemptions protect documents that, if released, would reveal the substance of deliberations of the Executive Council. As specified in section 9(1) of the current act, these include such documents as proposals or recommendations prepared for submission to Cabinet. Cabinet agendas and minutes, briefings to ministers on issues, whether the Cabinet and background analysis of problems or policy, options submitted to Cabinet for their consideration before decisions are made.

It would be nice to see what the Cabinet deliberations were, say, on Trans City Holdings. Is that a reason why it is twenty years and not ten? It would be nice to see the deliberations.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General was not a member at this time so my comments are not referenced to you, but the Premier was. Wouldn't it be nice to see the special committee of Cabinet that was set up to deal with the leasing arrangement that cost the people of this Province in excess of an additional $50 million? So, do not stand on your high horse today, Premier, and start preaching to us. That I can tell you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Chair, wouldn't it be nice to see?

PREMIER GRIMES: A point of order, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: Order, please!

On a point of order, the hon. the Premier.

PREMIER GRIMES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I appreciate the debate that is going on, as I always do, but I think it needs to be understood clearly: the record shows, through the public accounts of the Province and through all the documents that have been listed, that the exact opposite of what the Opposition House Leader suggested has occurred. That in the business arrangement that was made to build the structures in Port Saunders and in Burgeo and so on, that in fact over the life of the contract the Province saved $50 million, Mr. Chairman, the exact opposite of what the member opposite would say.

Mr. Chairman, if we are going to have the debate then let's get the numbers out and check the numbers that have already been recorded since, in the public accounts of the Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: There is no point of order.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. E. BYRNE: Mr. Chairman, if you want to get the numbers out, here is what the Premier is trying to say: that you save money by giving contracts to the highest bidder and then, when you go to the Supreme Court of the Province and the government is told that they were criminally wrong, that they were wrong, and they had to settle with the other bidders, in the process of getting the numbers out the government said: We will give you the money as long as you - only under one condition will we give you the money.

PREMIER GRIMES: A point of order, Mr. Chairman.

MR. E. BYRNE: Can't take it, can you, Premier?

CHAIR: On a point of order, the hon. the Premier.

PREMIER GRIMES: Mr. Chairman, I recognize that, like myself, the Opposition House Leader is not a learned colleague. I would ask him to check with one of his friends about using the phrase criminal. There was no criminal wrongdoing found in the case with respect to Trans City. The judge ruled that the government should have used a different procedure, but that there was no crime committed.

I would submit to you, Mr. Chairman, that it is very serious to stand in this Legislature - and it should be taken seriously. I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition is laughing, even though he knows the difference. It is very serious to stand in the Legislature and suggest that someone was convicted of a crime. There was no crime committed. The word criminal wrongdoing in that phrase was never, ever used in any of the legal documents. Maybe the Leader of the Opposition, or one of his learned colleagues who knows the difference in the language, could stand up and point out and acknowledge the difference; there was never a reference.

Mr. Chairman, I believe again that unintentionally the Opposition House Leader has very seriously impinged upon the privileges of the members of this House by bringing in a dimension that has far-reaching consequences and is totally and absolutely inappropriate. I would ask, Mr. Chairman, that he apologize for it. I understand the political point he is making, but I think he stepped well over the line in terms of suggesting something that has no substance whatsoever.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: To the point of order, the Opposition House Leader.

MR. E. BYRNE: Not to the point of order. You can rule on that, if it is a point of order or not, Mr. Chair.

CHAIR: There is certainly a disagreement between hon. gentlemen in this House, but the Chair does not see a point of order.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. E. BYRNE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

With respect to the twenty or ten years, as I was saying, is it because we cannot get at the deliberations of just one committee? Here is what happened: The court said the government broke the law and, in breaking the law, they broke it because they gave it to the highest bidder. Because they gave it to the highest bidder, that is how they were saving money. That is what the Premier is trying to tell us.

PREMIER GRIMES: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIR: The hon. the Premier, on a point of order.

PREMIER GRIMES: Mr. Chairman, it is important. Some of the members opposite might not care about this Legislature and have respect for the rules and proceedings. It is important to make sure that we have the facts straight.

Again, in that particular court case, which did go through the full proceedings, the ruling and the judgement - and I invite someone to read it instead of making up what it suggested - did not say that we broke the law by giving the contract to the highest bidder. The ruling - again, I invite anyone to read it, please. The ruling said the government should have used a different procedure. And because we used a different procedure, it ruled that the proponent that had sued the government was, in fact, entitled to some compensation. It did not say that we broke the law by awarding a contract to the highest bidder. That was never in the award.

Mr. Chairman, I believe that it is important enough for us to make sure we understand the facts. That has been dealt with publicly. There have been three elections since then, in which this government has gotten re-elected because the people understand that we did not break the law deliberately. They understand that a court ruled that we made a mistake in our process and procedure. We were never accused of deliberately giving anything to anybody. Mr. Chairman, the evidence shows that we saved the taxpayers money instead of costing money.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: There is no point of order.

The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. E. BYRNE: There is no point of order.

So the record shows that the Premier is up for a third time; no point of order. I will conclude what I am saying. I have asked for a reasonable explanation on how government came to the conclusion and cherry-picked twenty years, which overrode their own committee's recommendation of fifteen, which they are saying no to ours of ten.

Back to the issue that I questioned, and I will raise it: How can you stand, in all legitimacy, before us today and say that the deal with the Trans City Holdings - financing costs alone cost the government an extra $30 million, the people of the Province; and, when you had to settle on the courthouse steps, as a government, you did settle with the highest bidder on another one, but you only settled with them under this condition: that they would not talk about what the settlement was. Now, don't stand here today and talk to me about accountability and transparency, Premier. We are asking a legitimate question here right now.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: We could go on. For example, would it not be fair to ask this question: Why they rejected ten years as opposed to twenty? Does it have anything else to do with decisions that this Premier, as part of a Cabinet, was party to?

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

MR. E. BYRNE: That is the issue. Now, if that is the issue, fair enough. Then say it. The fact of the matter is, Mr. Chair -

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. E. BYRNE: The fact of the matter is that we are on section 17 of the new Freedom of Information Act. On one particular section, Mr. Chairman, they have agreed, amongst themselves, because they felt twenty years was good. We have asked the question: How did they arrive at that feeling? How did they arrive at the feeling to override their own committee's recommendations? The Premier will not answer it. The Minister of Justice will not answer it. In the absence of an answer to a question being asked a number of times, what is our job? We are left to speculate on why you will not. The only consensus and conclusion that I can come to is because of the decisions that you were part of, sir. That is the reason why it is twenty years and not ten.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. E. BYRNE: I say this in all honesty, what is the difference between recommending - here is what we are talking about so the people of the Province clearly understand the type of information that we would be looking for, and here it is: factual information, background material, and documentation - and this is important, we are not looking for this - that does not disclose the substance of Cabinet deliberations be made available to the public once the relevant decision has been implemented, or five years from the date of submission if no decision has been made public by that time; and that Cabinet confidence exemptions be subject to a maximum of a fifteen year time limit.

What we are looking for Premier, and members of the government, is factual information, background material, and documentation that does not disclose the substance of Cabinet deliberations. You can protest all you like, but there is no justifiable reason why that has to be twenty years and not ten. The only justifiable reason, whether you care to admit it publicly or not, is that fact that in doing so this Opposition would be able to get at the decisions that you were a part of, and other members of government. That is the only conclusion that I can draw.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Chairman, I am not one who gets into caustic remarks. I usually like to try to confine my comments to the matter at hand. We are dealing with a very serious matter here. I tend to leave the politics out of it, but what is getting lost here - because I do not intend to play politics with this issue. This is a very important issue.

We cannot forget where the Freedom of Information Act came from in 1981. I am not suggesting that the government, which was a Conservative Government which brought it in in 1981, did not make good advances by doing so. They did, it was a good move, but unfortunately they did not go far enough. We can stand here today, if we wish, and cast negative aspersions upon that Administration. Why did they forever forbid the disclosure of Cabinet confidences rather than picking any year? That is not what the purpose of this exercise is. It is to be reasonable.

As opposed to the Conservative Administration of 1981, which had no disclosure whatsoever, forever and a day, this act is premised on disclosing; totally contrary to the original drafters of this legislation, the Conservative government in 1981. I would also suggest that the party opposite should take a look at section 6. This is not an act which is based on, keep all the information in and only put so much out when you feel like it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PARSONS: As George Bush once said: What is it you don't understand about these words? Section 6 outlines very clearly the premise of this act. This is not a hide and seek game. This is: You must put every piece of information you have out there unless there are very limited exceptions. This Administration is not acting from the premise that you keep it in a closet and they only get it under certain circumstances. The premise of this legislation, section 6(1) states: "A person who makes a request under section 7 has a right of access...." This is not a privilege of access. This act is based upon the citizens of this Province having a right to the information, because it is their information.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PARSONS: It is not the government's information; it is the information of the people. That is what this act is based upon. We would like to think that the act has been very, very reasonable. We are not into the mode of never put anything out of Cabinet, in perpetuity. We picked a time and we felt, as an Administration, that a proper time, a reasonable time, was twenty years. That logic did not fail on the federal government, which I believe was a Conservative government federally that said twenty years. It did not fail in the Province of Ontario, where a Conservative government said twenty years. It is not a matter of your political stripe or your party stripe; it is if you are reasonable or not. We feel the same as those jurisdictions, that twenty years is reasonable. I cannot make it any clearer than that. It is based upon reason.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: Order, please!

On motion, clause 17 carried.

CHAIR: Shall clause 18 carry?

The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Section 18 says that, "The head of a local public body may refuse to disclose to an applicant information that would reveal (a) a draft of a resolution, by-law or other legal instrument by which the local public body acts; (b) a draft of a private Bill..." - and then there is a very important section here which I think people should be aware of, and that is subsection (c), "the substance of deliberations of a meeting of its elected officials or governing body or a committee of its elected officials or governing body," - this is the one the Premier spoke about - "where an Act authorizes the holding of a meeting in the absence of the public. (2) Subsection (1) does not apply where (a) the draft of a resolution, by-law or other legal instrument or private Bill or the subject matter of deliberations has been considered in a meeting open to the public; or (b) the information referred to in subsection (1) is in a record that has been in existence for 15 years or more." Now, the gist of what the Opposition is recommending here is basically the deletion of subsection (c). We are also asking that the fifteen years be reduced to ten.

When it comes down to all our amendments and all our recommendations, what we are trying to do here in this act is get more openness, more accountability, more transparency. That is what we are seeking. Shorten the time frames. Cut them back from a year. Shorten the time frames for disclosure from Cabinet. Take them from twenty years and make them ten years. Obviously, as the House Leader has indicated, the problem with taking it from twenty years to ten years is that it would disclose Cabinet confidences of this Liberal government. That is the problem, because some of the hon. members opposite were in the Cabinet during that period of time and they do not want the people of this Province to find out what was going on. Why don't the people have the right to the information? What are we trying to hide?

Now, when we come to section 18, subsection (c), we are on secret meetings. We are into secret meetings, meetings that are held in the absence of the public. The public has a right to know. Why should things we held in secret? It is the people's money. You are the people's representatives. I am a representative of the people of Humber West. I feel that my constituents have a right to know everything. They have a right to know. What are we trying to hide? Give it to them as soon as it is available. Take Cabinet from twenty years - do not even take it to ten - take it to five. Give them the information. Why shouldn't they have it? It does not make any sense. I cannot understand. Maybe there is something I am missing here. I cannot understand why the people of Newfoundland and Labrador do not have a right to know that information. It amazes me.

Here we are now, in section 18.(1), saying, "The head of a local public body may refuse to disclose to an applicant information..." under certain circumstances. Do you know what one of those circumstances is? The substance of deliberations of a meeting held secretly. Secretly. Why? What is so wrong about that? Why don't we delete it? Why do you want to keep things private? The people of this Province need to know the answer to that. I would like to know the answer to that, from the Minister of Justice, why subsection (c) is not a satisfactory amendment. Tell me, Minister of Justice.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

CHAIR: The hon. the Minister of Justice.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PARSONS: Mr. Chairman, the Leader of the Opposition uses the word secret as if it is a dirty word. He is totally replacing, at every opportunity and every instance, and he substitutes the word secret in the context and a tone of voice as if it is a dirty word.

The consideration here is the word confidence. We are talking about things done in confidence. First of all, with regard to section 18, unlike section 17 - and I notice this has not been picked up, or I have not seen it in your amendments - in section 18 we are talking about public bodies, and those public bodies have been defined, for the record, so that everybody in this Province knows who we are talking about, that are having these secret meetings, we are talking about hospital boards, we are talking about municipal councils, we are talking about school boards having these secret meetings. I would also point out here that these public bodies, that people in most cases elect people to - the school boards and municipalities - have put their confidence in by electing them, is not even a mandatory section. Section 17 is mandatory. There is nothing mandatory about section 18. The head of a public body may refuse to disclose.

Anywhere where there is a "may", we know we are into the ambit of the Citizens' Representative exercising a review policy, so you cannot take -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. PARSONS: It is totally and absolutely unfair and improper to take section 18, as has been done here by the Leader of the Opposition, and put it in the same quintal of fish, as he has done with section 17.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PARSONS: May is discretionary, not mandatory, and it makes a whole lot of difference.

They talk about the purpose of why you would want one of these secret meetings. Well, there is a very good reason sometimes why you have secret meetings, or as I would call them, privileged or confidential meetings; a very good reason. Sometimes in one of those meetings, if you are a municipal council, for example, you may be talking about one of your employees. It may be an issue of discipline or something that has been happening on the job or in the context of the environment of employment. I do not think it is in the least unreasonable, the least secretive, the least improper, to allow that employee the respect and courtesy of dealing with that issue, which concerns he or she, in the privacy of their council.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PARSONS: I think that is absolutely respectful of the individual. The other piece of this Access to Information is called the Privacy Act and we respect the privacy of individuals in certain situation.

I would also point out here, that we are not making the wheel again. The suggestion is here that this Administration has come up with a piece of legislation called Bill 49 designed to fit its own purposes, designed only and solely for itself, based upon what it might want to hide. There could be nothing further from the truth. I have heard the word, cherry-picking, that government has cherry-picked ten instead of twenty, or twenty instead of twenty-five. If there is any cherry-picking going on, I would suggest one need only read the amendments put forward by the Opposition.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PARSONS: If there is something in Bill 49 that they do not like - and they seem to have patterned most of their amendments after BC, which is an order-power jurisdiction. If it is not like that in BC, they cherry-picked Nova Scotia, because that one is more like we want. If they do not like what is in another section, they will cherry-pick a section under something else. I would have absolutely no problem or difficulty with that, if it were done to get the best piece of legislation, but it is exactly that. The amendments are a hodgepodge of what you wanted to response to at any given time. But this Administration and this Province should not operate on a hodgepodge basis of response. We have to have a well-thought-out, rational, reasoned approach as to how we let the people of this Province get their information, because it is theirs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. PARSONS: As to the timing again, it is a matter of, what figure do you pick. Some jurisdictions have ten, some have fifteen, some have twenty-five, some have thirty. I do not think it is in the least unreasonable, given the various jurisdictions around this country, that we have chosen fifteen. Fifteen was okay for the Opposition when it came to getting Cabinet confidence out, but I take it it shouldn't be okay now where we have used it in section 18. There are inconsistencies I hear coming across here. You are forgetting the point, that it is based on reasoned and rational purposes.

I go back again, because this is the crux of this matter and it cannot be forgotten here, and that comes back to the secretive comment. When these groups, these public bodies, these hospital boards, these councils and these school boards meet to discuss what you would call very sensitive problems sometimes and difficulties, not only is it courteous to the individual citizen and respectful to the citizen, sometimes, as there ought to be, most of these public bodies like to have open, intense debate to make sure that they get all the facts out about a certain situation. That, I would suggest, in some circumstances, ought not to be done in a public forum.

If there is a debate involving an employee there ought to be an opportunity for the members of that council, or the members of that hospital board - it may be a doctor's privileges, for example. Why should that be discussed in public and be disrespectful to the individual. That is a very personal, private matter. I think we have to have, as this administration does, the respect for the councils, the school boards, and the hospital people of this Province, that they are not going to abuse it. Because, they have the same interest at heart that we do, which is in the best interest of the citizens.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

AN HON. MEMBER: Order, please!

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Mr. Chairperson, I move that the Committee rise and report progress.

On motion, that the Committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again, Mr. Speaker returned to the Chair.

MR. SPEAKER (Snow): Order, please!

The hon. the Member for Humber East.

MR. MERCER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Committee of the Whole have considered the matters to them referred, have directed me to report considerable progress and ask leave to sit again.

On motion, report received and adopted, Committee ordered to sit again on tomorrow.

MR. HARRIS: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

On a point of order, the hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to ask whether or not there is unanimous consent to allow the moving of a resolution with respect to the allocation of NAFO area 3O, redfish, that was discussed in Question Period today; whether there is unanimous consent of the House to move this resolution right now.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the hon. member have approval?

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, this side here certainly gives approval to the resolution.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Opposition House Leader.

MR. E. BYRNE: As do we, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MR. HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to thank hon. members for allowing the resolution to be presented to the House. The resolution reads as follows:

BE IT RESOLVED THAT this House of Assembly endorse the principle of adjacency with respect to the allocation of fish quotas off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, and in particular, urge the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to decline the request for a 3O redfish allocation requested to supply the plant in Canso, Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. REID: I would like to thank the Leader of the NDP for putting forward a resolution which supports the actions that the government has already been taking with regard to this matter.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: All those in favour of the resolution, aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, nay'.

Carried.

MR. HARRIS: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

I wonder if the record could show that the resolution was passed unanimously? (Inaudible) Mr. Speaker, to see that it gets (inaudible).

On motion, resolution passed with the unanimous approval of the House.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: Mr. Speaker, I move that on tomorrow that the House not adjourn at 5:30 p.m.

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. member is giving Notice of Motion?

MR. LUSH: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay.

The hon. the Government House Leader.

MR. LUSH: I move, Mr. Speaker, that the House on its rising do now adjourn.

On motion, the House at its rising adjourned until tomorrow, Tuesday, at 1:30 p.m.